Golfer's Elbow Treatment: How to Alleviate Pain and Restore Mobility

Golfer’s elbow (also called medial epicondylitis) is a condition that causes pain and tenderness on the inner side of the elbow. The pain is typically felt around the bony bump on the elbow’s inner side, called the medial epicondyle.

Specifically, Golfer’s elbow is caused by small tears in the tendons that occur due to repeated use of the forearm muscles and tendons. It can occur during activities that involve gripping or twisting, such as golfing, throwing a ball, or using tools like hammers or screwdrivers.

Treatment for a Golfer’s elbow typically involves rest and rehabilitation exercises to strengthen the forearm muscles and improve flexibility. Other treatments may include pain management techniques like ice or heat therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, or corticosteroid injections. 

Now, let’s look at some of the diagnosis and assessment options for a golfer’s elbow in detail below.

Diagnosis and Assessment of Golfer’s Elbow

  • Physical Examination and Medical History

During a physical examination, a doctor may apply pressure to the affected area or ask the patient to move their elbow, wrist, and fingers to assess pain and stiffness. Additionally, the doctor may ask the patient about their medical history, such as any prior injuries or medical conditions, to help determine if Golfer’s elbow is the cause of the pain. 

  • Imaging Tests

X-rays can help rule out other causes of elbow pain, such as fractures or arthritis. MRI and musculoskeletal ultrasonography can help demonstrate continuity and changes in the caliber of the tendon. Additionally, diagnostic ultrasound can help assess Golfer’s elbow. 

  • Assessment of the Condition’s Severity

The healthcare provider will look for tenderness and pain in the affected arm and any weakness in grip strength. They may also ask the patient to perform specific movements to assess a range of motion and flexibility. 

Golfer’s Elbow Treatment Options

Non-Surgical Treatments

  • Rest and Ice

Resting the affected arm helps reduce inflammation and pain, while applying ice helps to reduce swelling and inflammation. It is applied for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times a day for several days. 

Wrapping the ice packs in a thin towel protects the skin. Massaging the inner elbow with ice for five minutes at a time, two to three times a day can also help.

  • Physical Therapy

Physical therapists may use various techniques to help the Golfer’s elbow treatment, such as gentle joint movements, soft-tissue massage, stretching of the elbow, forearm, and wrist, and manual stretching and other techniques on the shoulder and shoulder thoracic spine.

Exercises are also essential to physical therapy as they help strengthen the elbow and forearm muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce pain. Examples of Golfer’s elbow treatment exercises include open-book stretches, wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, and wrist extensions. 

  • Medications

Medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), naproxen sodium (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are commonly used over-the-counter pain relievers. Corticosteroid injections are sometimes used, but they are not effective long-term. 

  • Bracing

Bracing works by providing counterforce to the muscles and tendons in the elbow, which helps reduce pain and inflammation. The most common brace for the Golfer’s elbow is a counterforce brace with hook and loop closures and a raised padded surface placed directly over the affected muscle. 

Surgical Treatments

  • Open Surgery

Open surgery for Golfer’s elbow involves making an incision in the skin over the elbow joint and surgically repairing damaged tendons or ligaments.

The procedure is typically done under local anesthesia and can take up to an hour to complete. Recovery typically takes several weeks to reduce pain and inflammation, including rest, physical therapy, and medications.

  • Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy is one of the minimally invasive surgical procedures used to diagnose and treat the Golfer’s elbow. A thin, lighted tube (arthroscope) is inserted into the joint through a small incision. The arthroscope is connected to a camera, which displays images of the joint on a monitor. 

  • Ultrasound-Guided Percutaneous Tenotomy

Ultrasound-Guided Percutaneous Tenotomy (Tenex) is a minimally invasive procedure used as Golfer’s elbow treatment, also known as medial epicondylitis. The procedure involves using a needle to pierce the damaged parts of the tendon under ultrasound guidance. 

The goal is to promote the body’s healing response by removing scar tissue from the tendon. This procedure is done under local anaesthesia and takes 15 to 20 minutes. The procedure has been shown to help tendon pain in over 85% of patients.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

  • Timeline for Recovery

According to the research, most people recover from Golfer’s elbow without surgery after resting their arm for about six weeks. Another clinic suggests surgery might be an option if signs and symptoms don’t respond to conservative Golfer’s elbow treatment in six to 12 months. 

A study conducted by NCBI found that the average recovery time for Golfer’s elbow was 8 weeks. The study also found that most patients (88.23%) fully recovered after 6 months.

  • Rehabilitation Exercises

Rehabilitation exercises help to strengthen the muscles and tendons around the elbow joint. Common exercises for Golfer’s elbow include open book stretches, wrist flexion and extension exercises, forearm pronation and supination exercises, and wrist curls.

Finally, wrist curls involve holding a lightweight in hand and curling the wrist up and down. This exercise should be done in a slow manner and with control.

  • Prevention of Recurrence

Warm up properly before performing a physical activity, especially before playing golf. It can include stretching, light exercises, and practising proper swing techniques. 

Secondly, implementing strengthening and flexibility exercises can help prevent a recurrence. These exercises can target the forearm muscles and tendons commonly affected by Golfer’s elbow. Examples of exercises include wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, and stretching exercises.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Golfer’s elbow can be painful, and those who enjoy or in other activities require repetitive gripping motions. However, proper Golfer’s elbow treatment and care can alleviate pain and restore mobility to the affected area. From rest and ice to physical therapy and surgery, various options are available for those seeking relief. 

By consulting with a medical professional and following a comprehensive treatment plan, individuals can return to doing what they love pain-free. Prevention is critical, so take breaks, stretch, and use proper form to avoid future injuries.

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