Golfer's elbow is pain and inflammation on the inner side of your elbow, where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of your elbow. The pain may spread into your forearm and wrist.
Golfer's elbow — also known as medial epicondylitis — is similar to tennis elbow. But it occurs on the inside — rather than the outside — of your elbow. And it's not limited to golfers. Tennis players and others who repeatedly use their wrists or clench their fingers also can develop golfer's elbow.
The pain of golfer's elbow doesn't have to keep you off the course or away from your favorite activities. With rest and appropriate treatment, you can get back into the swing of things.
Golfer's elbow is characterized by:
The pain of golfer's elbow may appear suddenly or gradually. The pain may get worse when you:
When to see a doctor
The pain of golfer's elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of the elbow (medial epicondyle). By contrast, the pain of tennis elbow ...
Golfer's elbow is caused by damage to the muscles and tendons that control your wrist and fingers. The damage is typically related to excess or repetitive stress — especially forceful wrist and finger motions. Sometimes golfer's elbow begins after a sudden force to the elbow or wrist.
Many activities can lead to golfer's elbow, including:
Golfer's elbow is most common in men ages 20 to 49 — but the condition can affect anyone who repetitively stresses the wrists or fingers.
Left untreated, golfer's elbow can cause:
Preparing for your appointment
If you have signs and symptoms common to golfer's elbow that don't improve with ice, OTC pain relievers and rest, make an appointment with your doctor. After an initial exam, your doctor may refer you to a sports medicine specialist or to a doctor with advanced training in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Below are some basic questions to ask a doctor who is examining you for possible golfer's elbow. If any additional questions occur to you during your visit, don't hesitate to ask.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Golfer's elbow is usually diagnosed based on your medical history and a physical exam. To evaluate pain and stiffness, the doctor may apply pressure to the affected area or ask you to move your elbow, wrist and fingers in various ways.
An X-ray can help the doctor rule out other possible causes of elbow pain, such as a fracture or arthritis. Rarely, more comprehensive imaging studies — such as magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) — are performed.
Treatments and drugs
The sooner you begin treatment, the sooner you'll be able to return to your usual activities.
Depending on the severity of your condition, the pain may linger for several months — even if you take it easy and follow instructions to exercise your arm. Sometimes the pain returns or becomes chronic. While you're recovering, remember the importance of rest. Sneaking in a round of golf before your elbow heals won't help you feel better. It may prolong your recovery.
You can take steps to prevent golfer's elbow:
It's also important to know when to rest. At the first sign of elbow pain, take a break. In addition to self-care measures, time off is often needed to promote healing.
Last Updated: 2010-05-05
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