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Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow)

Introduction

Golfer’s elbow is a condition that causes pain 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.  The pain may spread into the forearm and wrist.

Anatomy

The group of muscles at the front of the forearm are commonly called the forearm flexors.  These muscles act to flex the wrist and fingers and have a common bony attachment at the inner aspect of the elbow called the medial epicondyle.  The forearm flexors attach to the medial epicondyle via the flexor tendon.

Causes

Overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm and elbow are the most common reason people develop golfer’s elbow.  This condition got its name because in performing a golf swing, this tendon is stressed.  Repeating some types of activities over and over again can put too much strain on the elbow tendons.  These activities are not necessarily high-level sports, but rather shoveling, gardening, and hammering nails can all cause the pain of golfer’s elbow.  Swimmers who try to pick up speed by powering their arm through the water can also strain the flexor tendon at the elbow.

Symptoms

The main symptom of golfer’s elbow is tenderness and pain at the medial epicondyle of the elbow.  Pain usually starts at the medial epicondyle and may spread down the forearm.  Bending your wrist, twisting your forearm down, or grasping objects can make the pain worse.  You may feel less strength when grasping items or squeezing your hand into a fist.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will first take a detailed medical history and perform a physical exam.  He or she may position your wrist and arm so you feel a stretch on the forearm muscles and tendons, which is can be painful.  Other tests for wrist and forearm strength are used to help your doctor diagnose golfer’s elbow.  You may also need to get x-rays of your elbow to rule out other problems with the elbow joint.

Treatment

There are many ways a physical therapist can help treat golfer’s elbow to help get you back to your normal level of activity.  Your therapist can show you exercises that will help improve range of motion and flexibility, strengthen the area, and assist in choosing an elbow brace that may be helpful for people suffering from this injury.

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