Depending on the severity of the condition, golfer’s elbow takes about 3-6 months to heal with nonsurgical management.
In minor cases, symptoms may improve with rest, pain medications, and home remedies such as ice application. If symptoms do not improve even after 6 months, surgery may be required. It may take another 3-6 months after surgery to fully recover from golfer’s elbow.
What is golfer’s elbow?
Golfer’s elbow, also called medial epicondylitis, is a condition caused by damage to the tendons on the inner side of the elbow. Tendons are fibrous tissue structures that look like cords and connect muscles to bones, allowing movement and helping prevent injuries by taking some of the force of muscles during movement.
The tendon on the inner side of the elbow connects the muscles that enable elbow movements (such as flexion) to a bony structure called the medial epicondyle. Repeated elbow movements or heavy weight lifting can cause tears in this tendon, leading to inflammation.
Golfer’s elbow is often seen in people who play sports such as golf, baseball, bowling, and archery as well as those who regularly lift weights. However, over 90% of cases of golfer’s elbow are not sports-related. Golfer’s elbow also affects people whose work involves repetitive twisting movements at the wrist, such as cooks, painters, plumbers, carpenters, and construction workers.
What are the symptoms of golfer’s elbow?
Signs and symptoms of golfer’s elbow may take weeks to months to develop. Often, the first symptom is pain on the inner side of the elbow that is worse right after you wake up. Pain typically extends from the elbow to the wrist.
Common symptoms of golfer’s elbow include:
- Pain or tenderness along the inner side of the forearm
- Pain on making a fist
- Reduced grip strength
- Numbness in the forearm and hand (typically the ring and little fingers)
- Tingling sensation that extends from the elbow to the hand (typically the ring and little fingers)
- Pain when flexing the wrist with the palm facing down
- Pain during a handshake
Certain symptoms may require urgent medical attention, including:
How do you treat golfer’s elbow?
Treatment of golfer’s elbow mainly depends on the severity of symptoms. Most cases are managed without surgery.
- Rest helps relieve pain, along with cessation of any activity that may worsen the symptoms such as painting, playing sports, or weight lifting. If you cannot completely avoid certain activities, you should at least reduce their intensity and frequency.
- Ice packs may help relieve pain and swelling. Do not apply ice packs for more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen may help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Topical nitroglycerin patches may be prescribed to provide relief.
- Physical therapy can help reduce symptoms, increase strength, and regain elbow function.
- Bracing, elbow taping, and night splinting may provide relief.
- Steroid injections in the elbow may be prescribed in severe cases.
- Ultrasound-guided percutaneous tenotomy may be performed before planning surgery. The procedure involves passing a needle under ultrasound guidance into the tendon to promote healing.
- Surgery may be done in severe cases, although it is typically not needed.
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