What is Golfer’s Elbow?

Golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain over the inner aspect of the elbow. Despite the name, it can happen to anyone, even if they have never touched a golf club. Golfer's Elbow may also be referred to as baseball elbow, suitcase elbow or forehand tennis elbow.

What causes Golfer's Elbow?

Golfer’s Elbow is caused by inflammation in the tendons of the forearm muscles, in particular those used for flexing the wrist and flexing the fingers. It is usually caused by repetitive activity such as racket sports, golf or hockey, but can happen in response to work-related activity such as hammering or using a screwdriver. Sometimes no underlying activity is needed.

We don’t know why some people get Golfer’s Elbow while others don’t. We also don’t know why some people suddenly develop Golfer’s Elbow with no seeming change in activity. What we do know is that once the inflammation develops it can cause a vicious cycle of pain and inflammation that gets worse and worse.

What are the symptoms of Golfer's Elbow?

The main symptom is pain. This is usually at or just next to the lump on the inside of your elbow (the medial epicondyle). This pain is often worst when gripping strongly with the hand. The pain can make the hand feel weak, although actually, the muscles are working fine.

How is Golfer's Elbow treated?

The main treatment in the first instance is to avoid the activities that cause the most pain. Ice and anti-inflammatory medicines can also help. Physiotherapy to help massage the area and carry out stretches is also useful, and in severe cases, a brace can help.

An injection of local anaesthetic and steroids can make a big difference, especially if given early on in the course of the disease. Unfortunately, people often wait a prolonged period for this at which point it is still worthwhile but often less effective.

For those who are keen on sport a return to sport evaluation with a qualified sports physiotherapist or doctor is very important. This can result in minor modifications to technique or training schedules to prevent the problem from recurring.

Where surgery is required, a small incision is made over the area of pain to remove damaged tissue and encourage healing. Surgery is only part of the treatment and subsequent adequate physiotherapy and sports evaluation is vital.