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Golfer’s Elbow

(Medial Epicondylalgia) - Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment
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Hand to Shoulder Center of Wisconsin has a team of orthopedic specialists with experience diagnosing and treating golfer’s elbow. If you are experiencing elbow pain, our team of orthopedic doctors and occupational and physical therapists are here to help. Contact Hand to Shoulder Center of Wisconsin in Appleton or Green Bay.

What is Golfer’s Elbow?

Medial epicondylitis or medial elbow tendinitis, more commonly known as golfer’s elbow, is described as elbow pain and inflammation of the flexor tendons connecting the forearm to the elbow. Much like its cousin, tennis elbow, it affects the elbow region, however, golfer’s elbow causes pain on the inside area of the elbow. Despite the name, golfer’s elbow does not only affect golfers. Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are forms of elbow tendinitis.

What causes Golfer’s Elbow?

The exact cause is unknown, however, overuse of the muscles in the forearm with repetitive gripping, vigorous lifting, or bending of the wrist is the most common cause. Inflammation can occur where the tendon meets the bone, and over time, can eventually result in microscopic tears in the tendons. Inflammation and tendon irritation can result in elbow pain. 

Golfer’s elbow can also be caused by injury or trauma. When a trauma occurs such as a blow to the elbow, the tendon may become injured, causing inflammation, and elbow tenderness.  

Typically, golfer’s elbow occurs in middle-aged individuals often involved in sports or repetitive work and non-work activities.

Golfer’s Elbow Symptoms and Treatment

Medial epicondylitis usually presents with a gradual onset of pain on the inside bony area of the elbow, which can sometimes radiate down the front of the forearm, wrist, and hand. Bending and straightening the elbow, gripping, lifting, grasping, and rotation of the wrist can cause discomfort and pain. 

In treating golfer’s elbow, our fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will perform a thorough examination; medical history will be discussed along with manual testing to identify the presence of medial elbow tendinitis.   

Imaging studies are sometimes used during the evaluation of elbow pain including golfer’s elbow. 

At Hand to Shoulder Center of Wisconsin, the physician may refer the patient to a licensed physical or occupational therapist for conservative treatment for golfer’s elbow. Once referred to a therapist, many forms of intervention are initiated. Golfer’s elbow exercises such as stretches to the flexor-pronator muscles and strengthening exercises are introduced along with soft tissue massage, additional manual techniques, modalities, and splinting (Fig. 1 -3). All exercises target improving flexibility and increasing strength for use with functional activities. The therapist may choose to use a modality as a treatment option to control the patient’s pain. Modalities that are commonly used include ultrasound and iontophoresis. On occasion, the therapist may provide a custom or pre-fabricated resting splint to relieve the tension of the involved muscles/tendons.

Flexor tendon stretching

Figure 1: Flexor tendon stretching

Strengthening treatment

Figure 2: Strengthening treatment

Kenesio tape strengthening

Figure 3: Kenesio tape strengthening

Golfer’s elbow treatment may also include anti-inflammatory medicine to assist with short-term pain relief. Steroids can also be injected into the elbow.

In some cases, golfer’s elbow treatment may warrant surgery. At Hand to Shoulder Center of Wisconsin, golfer’s elbow surgery can be performed at Woodland Surgery Center which is adjacent to the clinic at 2325 N. Casaloma Drive in Appleton, WI. All physicians have surgical privileges at the three local Fox Valley hospitals. Post-operative, the patient attends therapy and a specific treatment plan is designed to best fit the patient’s needs. 

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