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Guide to Golfers elbow

What is Golfers elbow?

Golfers elbow is the most common cause of pain on the inside of the elbow. This area houses the muscles of the wrists that perform flexion of the wrist. Although the condition is named “Golfers Elbow” you do not have to be an avid golfer to suffer from this condition as its more common in certain populations such as those partaking in sports that require repetitive flexion and twisting of the wrist and people who type a lot.

Golfers elbow is much less common than tennis elbow. Golfers elbow is usually described as a sharp burning, achy pain that is located on the inside of the elbow. Symptoms are initially intermittent and occur after a bout of manual labour such as digging, carrying heavy items and going to the gym. Some of the other common symptoms you may experience includes:

  • Pain located on the inside of the elbow that may also be tender to touch
  • Pain that comes on with repetitive tasks such as typing
  • Pain during sporting activities that require gripping
  • Feeling of weakness when trying to grip items

What causes Golfers elbow?

Golfers elbow is as a result of repetitive overuse and straining of the muscles over a prolonged period of time that are responsible for flexing and twisting the wrist. This leads to the tendon becoming inflamed and painful, this is known as tendinitis. The repeated episodes of tendinitis can compromise the healing process of the tendon causing it to become thickened and warm which leads to a tendinopathy.

How is Golfers elbow diagnosed?

The diagnosis of golfer’s elbow will be based on the presenting symptoms and the completion of a complete physical examination which will include, orthopaedic, neurological and range of motion assessments. There are a few special tests that if positive may indicate the presence of a golfer’s elbow. If required the practitioner may refer you to get an ultrasound scan done to evaluate the extensor tendon for any signs of tearing or tendinitis (inflammation).

How is Golfers elbow treated?

Golfers elbow can be slow to recover from hence it’s important that conservative care is started as soon as possible as a vast majority of patients will respond well to treatment. Initially, patients require selective rest and avoidance of activities that involve the repetitive flexion of the wrist. Ice massages can be helpful to perform at home but do nothing in the long-term course of chronic pain relief. Some of the treatments that can be provided are myofascial therapy, stretching exercises and activity modification.

Another form of treatment is the use of extracorporeal shockwave therapy which is an effective treatment option used to treat tendon pain. This is done by desensitising irritated nerve endings and by causing micro-trauma, triggering a healing response of the tendon.

Another form of treatment would be the use of Ultrasound-guided steroid injection into the site of pain.

References

Hudes K. Conservative management of a case of medial epicondylosis in a recreational squash player. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association. 2011 Mar;55(1):26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pMC3044804/

Ciccotti MC, Schwartz MA, Ciccotti MG. Diagnosis and treatment of medial epicondylitis of the elbow. Clinics in sports medicine. 2004 Oct 1;23(4):693-705. https://www.sportsmed.theclinics.com/article/S0278-5919(04)00044-4/abstract

Polkinghorn BS. A novel method for assessing elbow pain resulting from epicondylitis. Journal of chiropractic medicine. 2002 Jun 1;1(3):117-21. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899346707600159

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