It’s happened to all of us: You step onto the fairway, swing your iron and take a deep divot. The poor shot may do more than hurt your score. It may injure your elbow, too. Golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, is pain and inflammation on the inner side of the elbow, where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of the elbow (medial epicondyle). The pain stems from damage to the muscles and tendons that control the wrist and fingers—typically it’s related to excess or repetitive stress, especially forceful wrist and finger motions. Sometimes golfer’s elbow begins after a sudden force to the elbow or wrist (One bad shot.). Other times the damage can build up gradually. The pain from golfer’s elbow commonly extends along the inner side of the forearm and wrist. Your elbow may feel stiff, and it may hurt to make a fist. You may have weakness in your hands and wrists.
It’s also not limited to golfers. Tennis players and other athletes who repeatedly use their wrists or clench their fingers can develop golfer’s elbow. (Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow are similar, but tennis variety is usually concentrated on the outside of the elbow.)
Golfer’s elbow pain may get worse when you:
• Swing a golf club or racket
• Squeeze or pitch a ball
• Shake hands
• Turn a doorknob
• Pick up something with your palm down
• Flex your wrist toward your forearm Many activities can lead to golfer’s elbow, including:
• Golf. Gripping or swinging the clubs incorrectly can take a toll on your muscles and tendons.
• Racket sports. Excessive topspin can hurt your elbow. Using a racket that’s too small, heavy or tightly strung also can lead to injury.
• Throwing sports. Improper pitching technique in baseball or softball can be another culprit.
• Other activities. Painting, raking, hammering, chopping wood, typing and other repetitive wrist, hand or arm movements can result in golfer’s elbow as well.
Golfer’s elbow is most common in men ages 20 to 49 but the condition can affect anyone who repetitively stresses the wrists or fingers. Seek immediate care if:
• Your elbow is hot and inflamed, and you have a fever
• You can’t bend your elbow
• Your elbow looks deformed
• You suspect you’ve broken a bone The pain of golfer’s elbow doesn’t have to keep you off the course or away from your favorite activities.
With rest and appropriate treatment, you can get back into the swing of things. Consult your doctor if rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers don’t ease your elbow pain and tenderness.