Golfer's Elbow Symptoms & Causes

Golfer’s elbow, known medically as medial epicondylitis, is inflammation of the tendons (tough cords of tissue) that attach your forearm muscles to the inside of the bone at your elbow. Over time, the forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from the repetitive motions of the golf swing. Wrist injuries like tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome can cause additional complications. Golfer’s elbow is not as well known as tennis elbow, but both are forms of elbow tendonitis. Tennis elbow is caused by damage to the tendons on the outside of the elbow, while golfer’s elbow is caused by injury to tendons on the inside of the elbow. Symptoms of golfer’s elbow range from pain and limited range of motion to elbow deformity due to a dislocated joint.

Golfer’s Elbow Symptoms

You may experience one or more of the following common symptoms of golfer’s elbow:

  • Pain – the most common complaint
    • Pain on the inside of your elbow
    • Pain may extend along the inner side of forearm
    • When you make a fist
    • When you swing a club
    • When you shake hands
    • When or turn a doorknob
    • When you go to pick something up with your palm down
  • Tenderness – on the inside of your elbow
  • Stiffness – your elbow feels stiff
  • Numbness or Tingling – radiates into your fingers, especially your ring finger or the little finger
  • Weakness
  • The elbow may look deformed

Men, Women & Golfer's Elbow

For many years, golfer's elbow affected mostly men between the ages of 20 and 49. Now, with approximately six-million women playing golf (approximately 22% of all US golfers), golfer's elbow is becoming increasingly common in women. Other weekend and professional athletes are developing symptoms of golfer's elbow without ever swinging a golf club. Tennis and racquet ball players get it, too, as well as people doing regular activities like shaking hands or chopping wood.

Other causes of golfer's elbow include:

  • Raking
  • Hammering
  • Curling your wrists during a biceps exercise
  • Improper throwing technique
  • Shaking hands too many times

The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Shoulder and Elbow Services in New York treat golfer’s elbow as well as a broad range of shoulder and elbow conditions that can occur at any stage of life.

Conservative treatments for golfer’s elbow usually work and usually include nonsurgical approaches such as medications, stretching exercises and gradual strength training. In more severe cases, golfer's elbow surgery may be necessary to successfully remove damaged tendon, improve blood flow or to reattach the tendon to the bone. Full recovery may take three to six months. 

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