Golfer's Elbow

Related terms

Medial elbow tendinopathy

Medial epicondylitis

Short summary

Golfer’s elbow is a condition that causes pain over the inner aspect of the elbow.  It is similar to tennis elbow but occurs on the other side of the elbow.  It is far less common than tennis elbow.

The muscles that bend the wrist and fingers all originate from the medial epicondyle, the bony prominence felt on the inner aspect of your elbow.  The tendons of these muscles can develop wear and tear, particularly with repetitive use, that causes pain when bending the wrist or gripping tightly.  Continued problems occur due to the tendons not fully recovering.

What are the causes?

Golfer’s elbow is not due to inflamed tendons but damaged tendons.  It commonly affects people in their 40’s and 50’s and will usually start after a period of sustained use of the elbow.  It doesn’t actually happen to golf players that often but can be seen in manual workers and throwing athletes.  

What are the symptoms?

There is usually tenderness that can be felt in front of and below the medial epicondyle.  Increased pain can be experienced when gripping hard with the hand.  There is usually a constant dull ache felt around the elbow which is a nuisance as opposed to severely disabling but as symptoms persist becomes more aggravating.

How is it diagnosed?

Your surgeon can usually make the diagnosis by asking about the symptoms you have and examining your elbow.  There is usually no need for any special investigations although an MRI or ultrasound can be used if the diagnosis is in doubt  

How is it treated?

Simple painkillers, rest and physiotherapy are usually very effective at treating symptoms.  Steroid injections have been used in the past but evidence shows that, while they work in the short term, the symptoms come back and are harder to treat.  Therefore, steroid injections are best avoided.

Injections of hyaluronic acid have been shown to be effective.  Surgery in the form of a golfer’s elbow release is also effective and can be performed if symptoms persist.