Golfer’s elbow is a condition affecting the tendons that attach to the medial epicondyle, a bony prominence on the elbow’s inner side. It occurs due to overuse or repetitive forearm motions and primarily impacts athletes and manual laborers.
Golfer’s elbow patients experience pain and tenderness on the inner side of the elbow. Other signs include weakness and stiffness in the forearm and hand. If you suffer from this condition, our specialized surgeon, Dr. Christopher Sforzo, can help with personalized treatment.
Only a qualified healthcare professional should diagnose the golfer’s elbow, and the procedure involves a physical examination. If you experience severe pain on the elbow, you should consult our experienced orthopedic expert, Dr. Christopher Sforzo, for evaluation.
During the physical exam, the surgeon applies pressure on your hand and asks you to flex your palm towards the wrist. If your arm’s inner side pain is painful when you bend your wrist, you could have a golfer’s elbow. Other confirmation tests include:
During an MRI, you lie on a table that is inserted into a tube-like machine. The machine uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the internal structures of your elbow. This allows our surgeon to spot damage or injury signs.
An MRI can detect small tears, tendon degeneration, or issues such as impingements on nerve or muscle inflammation. The technique provides a clear picture of your elbow’s internal structures for our surgeon to diagnose the golfer’s elbow injury appropriately.
Musculoskeletal ultrasound is a diagnostic tool our surgeons use to evaluate the patient’s internal elbow structures. The process uses high-frequency sound waves to create detailed images of the soft tissue structures in the area.
In the golfer’s elbow case, a musculoskeletal ultrasound provides information about tendon health. Using ultrasound, our surgeon gets a real-time look at the tendons, ligaments, and muscles. This helps to evaluate the injury extent and inflammation.
X-ray is one of the primary diagnostic tools our professionals use to evaluate the bones in the body and diagnose the golfer’s elbow. When you visit our doctor with symptoms of a golfer’s elbow, they may perform an X-ray as one of the diagnostic tests. The process captures images to create detailed, black-and-white pictures of the elbow bones. Dr. Christopher Sforzo uses this to check injury or damage.
Our orthopedic surgeon recommends many nonsurgical techniques for the treatment of golfer’s elbow. This conservative approach aims to alleviate pain and inflammation and promote healing without surgery.
The approach best treats mild to moderate cases of golfer’s elbow pain or patients who want to avoid surgery. Some standard nonsurgical treatment options include:
One of the first steps in treating a golfer’s elbow is to avoid activities that aggravate the pain and inflammation. Based on your situation, our doctor may recommend modifying or avoiding specific activities until symptoms improve.
This might include taking a break from playing golf, tennis or reducing the intensity or frequency of the activity.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen can reduce pain and inflammation. Sometimes, our doctor may prescribe stronger medication to provide more relief.
A physical therapist can help you to stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons in the affected area. This enhances your motion range and flexibility. Exercises focus on the muscles in your forearm and help to reduce the tension on the tendons that cause symptoms.
Ice application to the impacted area can minimize pain and inflammation. Our doctor may suggest you ice the area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, a few times daily. You can do icing with a bag of ice or a cold pack. This works best in the early injury stages.
These injections relieve pain and inflammation, allowing you to regain strength and range of motion. A physical therapist or doctor should administer corticosteroid injections for enhanced recovery from the golfer’s elbow pain.
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections have been proven clinically to be a very safe and effective means of treatment of many tendon problems, including golfers and tennis elbow. PRP is a small volume of plasma that is formed after we draw the patient’s own peripheral blood and spin it in a special centrifuge, which gives us a high concentration of growth factors, proteins, and cytokines that specialize in tendon healing, anti-inflammation, and blood vessel growth, all of which act to heal the golfers elbow in time, naturally.
The most common cause of the golfer’s elbow is repetitive motions of the wrist and fingers. These movements are similar to those players use in golf, baseball, tennis, and other sports. However, research shows about 90% of individuals with golfer’s elbows don’t develop the condition from participating in sports.
Other factors contributing to the golfer’s elbow include poor technique, lack of flexibility, muscle weakness, and imbalances. Older adults and individuals with certain medical conditions such as arthritis, tendinitis, and chronic joint pain are more prone to developing golfer’s elbow.
Following a golfer’s elbow pain, our certified surgeon can recommend a particular treatment method depending on the severity of your injury. The techniques for treatment of this condition aim to:
There are various treatments for golfer’s elbow, including:
It’s best to avoid activities that worsen golfer’s elbow injury, such as racket sports, throwing sports, and weightlifting. Focus on resting your arm and elevating it when sitting or lying down. When using the arm, avoid strain, as this can worsen your injury.
To reduce strain, you can wear braces but speak to a qualified surgeon for insights on the best practices. Dr. Christopher Sforzo will evaluate the extent of your injury and provide a detailed personalized guide on the best practices.
If the golfer’s elbow pain persists and other treatment techniques don’t work, our doctor may prescribe elbow injections. Injection types include corticosteroids, platelet rich plasma (PRP), bone marrow aspiration concentrate (BMAC).
NSAIDs, such as diclofenac and ibuprofen, can help to reduce golfer’s elbow pain and inflammation. If you opt for these drugs, don’t use them for the long term, as they can lead to complications, including kidney damage and stomach ulcers. Daily 800-2,400mg is the recommended NSAID dose for adults.
Stretching exercises speed up healing and enhance your flexibility. These involve strengthening and stretching your forearm’s flexor muscles. While some practices require weights, they should be light enough to avoid further injuries.
According to a 2018 report, you should use approximately 30% of your maximum weight. If you don’t understand the exercises that can work for your needs, consult your physiotherapist or get a personal trainer.
We consider golfer’s elbow surgery as the last resort treatment option if a patient fails to respond to nonsurgical treatment. The procedure involves releasing or repairing the damaged tendons. Dr. Christopher Sforzo performs the surgery under twilight (not general) anesthesia.
Our qualified surgeon will make a small incision on the inside of the elbow and repair the damaged tendon during the surgery. The doctor uses special techniques to heal the tendon, including debridement or cutting the tendons or muscles, and then repairing them. We often add a platelet rich plasma (PRP) and/or bone marrow aspiration concentrate (BMAC) injection at the time of surgery to the repair to assist in the healing process.
Recovery from a golfer’s elbow surgery varies depending on the individual and the extent of the surgery. After the procedure, our surgeon may require you to wear a splint or brace to support and protect the area as it heals.
After the surgery, expect to experience some pain and discomfort, which you can manage with medication. Most patients can return to light activities within a few weeks, but it may take several months to resume daily activities. Stick to your surgeon’s instructions for the best results.
While some injuries are unavoidable, learning how to avoid golfer’s elbow can help when participating in your daily activities. Golfer’s elbow prevention is vital, especially if you’re at an increased risk of developing this condition.
Golfer’s elbow is more prevalent in smokers, obese individuals, and those who perform repetitive activities. Dr. Christopher Sforzo recommends the following tips on how to avoid golfer’s elbow:
At Sforzo, Dillingham, Stewart Orthopedic + Sports Medicine, we strive to offer nonsurgical treatment for golfer’s elbow. If your injury is severe and these methods don’t seem to work, you may consider surgery.
Our orthopedic surgeon Dr. Christopher Sforzo is a board-certified and committed professional providing excellent service according to your needs. Contact us today for evaluation and treatment recommendations if you suspect you have a golfer’s elbow.