What is golfer’s elbow?

Medial epicondylitis of the elbow or “golfer’s elbow” is a condition that typically affects middle-aged adults. It is an overuse injury that involves inflammation and/or tiny tears of the wrist and finger muscle tendons located at the inner side of the elbow. These muscle tendons help to bend the wrist (wrist flexion) and fingers (finger flexion). As such, individuals suffering from this condition often feel pain over the inner side of their elbows when lifting loads, gripping and twisting objects forcefully with their fingers.

Despite being called “golfer’s elbow”, this condition is common not just among golfers. It also occurs in individuals who participate in upper limb sports (e.g. upper limb gym workouts, racquet sports) or prolonged periods of work involving frequent upper limb use (e.g. cooks, office workers, butchers, plumbers, carpenters).

How do I know if I have golfer’s elbow?

Signs and symptoms of golfer’s elbow may include:

  • Pain or burning on the inner part of the elbow that may travel to the wrist (these sensations may be worse at night)
  • Pain when performing activities that require twisting or forceful exertion of the upper limb, or when lifting a heavy object with the palm facing up
  • Stiffness of the elbow
  • Weak grip strength
  • Numbness and tingling in the hand

How do you diagnose golfer’s elbow?

Your Doctor will obtain your health history and perform a physical examination. Your Doctor may also order medical diagnostic tests (e.g. X-rays, MRI scans, electromyography studies) to rule out other causes of your problem.

What is the treatment for tennis elbow?

It is important to seek early treatment for golfer’s elbow as non-surgical treatment success rates may decrease as severity of golfer’s elbow may worsen with time. Treatment options for golfer’s elbow include both non-surgical and surgical interventions.

Hand Therapy

Golfer’s elbow cases that are mild to moderate in severity often respond well to non-surgical treatment, which largely involves resting of the upper limb to allow inflammation to subside naturally, as well as specific exercises targeted at preventing elbow/wrist stiffness and improving strength. Your Doctor may refer you to our Hand Therapist, who will be able to provide the following services:

  • Advice and education pertaining to your condition
  • Wax therapy
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Advice on lifestyle and activity modifications so as to eliminate or minimise daily activities or wrist movements which may further aggravate the condition
  • If necessary, provide a customised splint to be worn over the affected wrist when you are using your hands to perform daily activities so as to provide support and encourage further rest of the wrist muscles
  • Soft tissue mobilisation and release
  • Appropriate exercises to improve elbow/wrist joint and muscle movements while avoiding aggravation of golfer’s elbow symptoms
  • Progressive strengthening exercises of the wrist after the inflammation subsides so as to prevent future recurrence
  • Pain relief/management
  • Personalised home exercise program

Non-surgical Treatment

Your Doctor may suggest other non-surgical interventions such as anti-inflammatory medications, or corticosteroid injections over the site of inflammation which can also help reduce inflammation and pain over the elbow.

Surgical Treatment

If golfer’s elbow symptoms are severe or do not improve over time with non-surgical interventions, your Doctor may recommend arthroscopic or open surgery. Hand therapy is often required after surgery to help regain the movement, strength and function of the affected elbow and wrist.