Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s elbow is medically referred to as medial epicondylitis. It is simply a type of tendonitis that causes inflammation and pain within the tendons connecting your elbow and forearm.

Golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylitis is mainly caused by repetitive use of your arm and wrist to bend, twist things or grasp at some objects. These repetitive actions cause your tendons to develop small tears that lead to elbow, forearm and wrist pain.

More often than not, people fail to tell the difference between a tennis elbow and a golfer’s elbow. With the golfer’s elbow, the pain originates from the inside bump of your elbow or the medial epicondyle.

Both are types of elbow tendinitis, only that the tennis elbow affects several tendons on the outside of your elbow. This is the opposite of the golfer’s elbow in the sense that the cause comes from the inside of your elbow. Moreover, a golfer’s elbow is not as common as the tennis elbow.

Golfer’s Elbow Anatomy

Based on the golfer’s elbow anatomy, the wrist flexors, which are also the muscles in your forearm, help pull your hand forward. Your wrist flexors are located inside the palm of your forearm and most of them attach to the main tendon found on the medial epicondyle. The name of this particular tendon is the common flexor tendon.

The main function of tendons is to connect every muscle to the bone since they are made up of several strands of collagen material. Given that collagen strands within the tendons are lined up, it is likely that your tendons have some tensile strength, so they can easily withstand high forces.

Typically, muscles work by pulling on one end of the tendon while the other end pulls on your bone, causing some movement. This is usually the case with your wrist flexor muscles that contract any time you flex the wrist, grip something with your hand or twist your forearm.

Therefore, if you grip a golf club and swing it or do similar actions with your forearm, you are simply building some forces on your tendon. Doing this repeatedly can lead to a golfer’s elbow.

Causes of Golfer’s Elbow


Medial epicondylitis or golfer’s elbow comes about as a result of the damaged muscles and tendons in your forearm. Naturally, these muscles and tendons play a significant role in controlling your fingers and wrist. Any damage on them can negatively impact the functionality of the affected forearm. 

Examples of tasks that can cause a golfer’s elbow include:

  1. The repetitive use of plumbing tools can weaken or even damage muscles and tendons within your forearm, causing golfer’s elbow in the process.
  2. The repeated motion that your hands make while painting can trigger a golfer’s elbow. Often, your wrist moves a lot while your fingers hold onto the brush, making it possible for you to develop symptoms of golfer’s elbow.

Reach out to Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo at Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine for consultation, diagnosis and treatment of the golfer’s elbow. Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo is an experienced and board-certified orthopedic surgeon. He is also fellowship-trained in both hand and upper extremity surgery. 

Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo is well-versed in providing necessary care in the treatment of shoulder, elbow, arm, forearm or wrist and hand injuries. Additionally, he can perform several procedures through the use of minimally invasive techniques that include arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, endoscopic carpal tunnel release and arthroscopic elbow and wrist procedures for patients of all ages. 

Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow


One of the most common symptoms of a golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) is pain that originates from the palm side of your forearm. The pain travels from your elbow towards the wrist, just on the same side as your little finger. 

Mostly, this pain is felt every time you bend your wrist toward the palm, especially when squeezing something like a rubber ball or while performing common tasks such as:

  • Whenever you shake hands vigorously with someone or grip a relatively heavy object, you are likely to feel some pain at the elbow. This pain comes about due to the damage to your tendons and muscles around the affected region. 
  • A simple task like turning a doorknob can turn out to be a challenging one if you have golfer’s elbow. This is because your wrist and fingers are somehow impacted due to the injury or damage to the tendons and flexor muscles of your hand.
  • In extreme cases, holding a coffee cup can become a huge task due to the pain resulting from your golfer’s elbow condition. 
  • Feelings of excruciating pain or burning sensation on your outer elbow region that spreads to your wrist are usually common when suffering from golfer’s elbow. In extreme cases, these burning sensations can get out of hand, particularly during the nighttime.
  • Every time you twist or bend your arm, you are likely to feel some pain. Sometimes the pain may become unbearable when opening a jar or turning a doorknob.
  • A golfer’s elbow can also cause some stiffness or pain in your forearm when extending or stretching your arm.
  • Just like the tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow may cause swelling. Often, the swollen area feels tender or warm to the touch.
  • Holding items such as a wrench, pen, racquet, or someone’s hand can become a problem due to the weakened grip of your fingers.

Symptoms associated with medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow) may look similar to those of other medical conditions. Therefore, it is recommended to see a doctor for examination, diagnosis and treatment as a way to heal the golfer’s elbow.

Sforzo I Dillingham I Stewart Orthopedics & Sports Medicine doctors, like Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo and Dr. Christopher L. Dillingham, can help with managing your golfer’s elbow condition. In particular, Dr. Dillingham is not only a board-certified orthopedic surgeon but also a fellowship-trained arm, hand and shoulder surgeon with many years of experience in treating rotator cuff disorders, nerve injury and carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis surgery, joint replacement, fracture repair, tendon repair, and foot and ankle disorders. 

He is an expert leader in carrying out technical medical tasks like total reverse shoulder surgery. Just like other doctors at Sforzo, I Dillingham I Stewart Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo and Christopher L. Dillingham use minimally invasive surgical methods to perform procedures that include surgery of the wrist and elbow and endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery.

How to Prevent Golfer’s Elbow

So, how do you get rid of the golfer’s elbow condition? Golfer’s elbow is another type of tendinitis condition, just like tennis elbow. Through golfer’s elbow physical therapy, patients can go back to their normal lives and perform certain tasks without difficulties. 

Here is how to fix a golfer’s elbow fast:

  1. Make sure to keep your arms flexible and strong throughout. Doing so will help protect the tendons and muscles in the forearms against damage due to repetitive activities.
  2. No matter what you do with your arms, try as much as possible to avoid repetitive movements, especially when playing games like golf. Repetitive motion is the main contributor to numerous cases of medial epicondylitis.
  3. Take warm-up sessions seriously before you can engage in any form of exercise. Likewise, spend some time doing warm-ups in preparation for certain sporting events or prior to doing other repetitive movements.
  4. Take a while to check and confirm that your equipment is right and in good condition whenever you want to play a racquet sport. Athletes have been affected by golfer’s elbow following the frequent use of the wrong sporting equipment. 


How to Diagnose Golfer’s Elbow 

The tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow tests during diagnosis are almost similar. For a successful diagnosis, Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo of Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine recommends the following:

  1. X-ray: An X-ray of your elbow needs to be done as soon as possible to help your physician rule out the possibility of other underlying problems or conditions. Through this type of tennis and golfer’s elbow test, the doctor will be able to provide the required treatment.
  2. MRI: In case your diagnosis of golfer’s elbow is not clear enough, the doctor may suggest other special tests. Most likely, the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan will come in handy. From the MRI scan, the doctor will determine the condition of your golfer’s elbow and take necessary action.
  3. EMG: Electromyography or EMG is just a diagnostic procedure that your caregiver will use to assess the condition of your muscles and nerve cells around the affected area. The results may reveal muscle dysfunction, nerve dysfunction or a nerve-muscle signal transmission problem. Through these findings, your doctor can suggest the best treatment for your condition.

How to Treat Golfer’s Elbow


Golfer’s elbow treatment can involve non-surgical and surgical treatment. You may start with a nonsurgical option before proceeding to surgical treatment if the condition worsens. 

1. Nonsurgical Treatment

The main idea behind the nonsurgical treatment option is to prevent the collagen from breaking down so that the tendon can heal properly. In addition, you may use anti-inflammatory medications like Ibuprofen to provide some relief. BFR (blood flow restriction) and physical therapy can also help treat your golfer’s elbow condition.

2. Surgical Treatment

If nonsurgical treatment doesn’t work for you, your next option should be surgery. In this case, your healthcare provider will suggest tendon debridement or tendon release form of surgery. With the tendon debridement, the surgeon will take out or debride the affected tissues inside the tendon.

Golfer’s elbow affects many people worldwide. The condition is caused by repetitive motions of your hand when engaged in activities such as painting, plumbing and playing racquet games. Contact Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics & Sports Medicine today to learn more about how you can manage a golfer’s elbow.