Medial epicondylitis, more commonly known as golfer’s elbow, is a form of tendinitis that affects the tendons connecting the muscles in your forearm to your elbow. It is similar to tennis elbow, but occurs on the bony bump on the inside of the elbow, rather than the outside. While the condition is quite common in golfers, it can occur in anyone who regularly twists their wrists or clenches their fingers.
The main characteristic of golfer’s elbow is pain on the inside of the elbow, although this can extend along the forearm and travel down to the wrist. Usually the elbow will feel stiff, but many of the symptoms will actually occur in the hand. This can include a weak hand, difficulty making a clenched fist, and numbness or tingling in the fingers. Certain movements, such as swinging a club, squeezing, or lifting an item, can exacerbate the pain.
In most cases, golfer’s elbow is not a serious condition and will not require a trip to the doctor. Usually, resting the elbow for a few days will give the condition sufficient time to recover. You can help speed things up by applying an ice pack to the elbow for a few minutes 3 times a day. If you do not have an ice pack, simply wrap some ice in a tea-towel or similar, as ice should never be applied directly to the skin.
Stretching your forearm can also help loosen up the muscles and speed up recovery, as can lifting light weights, or squeezing something like a stress or tennis ball. But the best way to approach golfer’s elbow is with preventative measures.
The most important thing, not only for preventing golfer’s elbow but for sports in general, is to make sure you have the right form. Improper technique is one of the main causes of golfer’s elbow, and similar conditions such as tennis elbow, so make sure you are not making any basic mistakes. After that, one of the most significant factors is your equipment. One study that looked at 1,440 swings found that 9 out of 10 players are using the wrong grip size, which can be a major contributing factor to the onset of golfer’s elbow. Similarly, people using iron clubs are more at-risk of developing the condition, and should consider switching to another material, such as graphite. Stretching the forearm before playing can also reduce the likelihood of golfer’s elbow.
Most of the time, a few days of rest, ice, and over-the-counter painkillers will be enough for golfer’s elbow to recover. However, in some cases, perhaps in older patients or people who have ignored the pain and allowed the condition to develop, a visit to the doctor may be required. They may treat the condition with steroid or protein injections, and in the most extreme cases, surgery may be recommended. This may involve the removal of damaged tissue or excess bone, and will yield successful results in most cases.