Though at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine we successfully diagnose and treat many patients who come to us with elbow and arm pain as having “golfer’s elbow,” not all of them are golfers. As with most other injuries named after sports, those who suffer the pain and inconvenience of golfer’s elbow need not have ever set foot on a golf course.
Whether you’re eager to recover in order to improve your golf score or just to be able to go about your usual routine, our experienced doctors have the skills to get you back in shape. We are physiatrists, medical doctors who have specialized in pain management and restoration of function. At all of our offices throughout Long Island, we have a remarkable history of success in helping our patients overcome pain and mobility issues without surgical intervention.
What exactly is golfer’s elbow?
The elbow is a complex joint where three bones meet: the humerus (upper arm bone), the ulna and the radius (the two bones of the lower arm). Golfer’s elbow is medically known as medial epicondylitis, a condition that results from inflammation of the tendons on the inside of the forearm. In addition to causing pain and stiffness in the body part for which it is named, golfer’s elbow may also cause pain in the wrist and forearm.
Causes of Golfer’s Elbow
It may interest you to know that the only difference between golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow is that the latter affects the tendons on the outside of the elbow. Both, however, are most often caused by repetitive use of the wrist or the repeated pressure of clenching the fingers (as in making a fist). Obviously, the body does not make a distinction between those who grasp a piece of sporting equipment or another object.
Activities that may result in golfer’s elbow include:
- Other sports that involve pitching or throwing (e.g. baseball, football, javelin throwing)
- Jobs that require forceful repetitive arm motion, such as computer work, carpentry, construction, auto mechanics, plumbing, painting, butchering, assembly line work
Golfer’s elbow develops gradually. Risk factors for the condition, apart from occupation, include:
- Being 40 years of age or older
- Being obese
- Being a smoker
- Performing the type of repetitive action described above for more than 2 hours a day
Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow
The first twinges of golfer’s elbow are typically felt at the bony bump on the inside of the elbow. In most cases, the pain spreads along the inside of your forearm and down into the wrist, following the pathway of the tendons. Symptoms of golfer’s elbow commonly include:
- Pain that worsens with certain movements, like making a fist or swinging a golf club
- Stiffness in the wrist, arm, elbow, and fingers
- Weakness of the hands and wrists
- Numbness or tingling that radiates down into the ring finger or pinky
In most cases, golfer’s elbow affects the patient’s dominant arm.
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, we pride ourselves on being meticulous diagnosticians. Depending on your particular symptoms and medical background, we will use a wide array of both tried and true and innovative diagnostic methods, including:
- Taking a comprehensive medical history to investigate any underlying conditions (e.g. neurological disorders or rheumatoid arthritis) or previous injuries to the area
- Performing a thorough physical exam of the affected area
- Using ultrasound guidance to get a clear image of any tendon damage
- Taking X-rays of the arm bones to rule out arthritis, fracture, or other problems
- Using an MRI scan to confirm tendon damage or show other soft tissue damage
- Performing an EMG (electromyography) to rule out nerve compression
We are exceptionally careful during the diagnostic process because we know that proper diagnosis is a determining factor in appropriate treatment.
In almost all cases, our well-designed noninvasive treatments for golfer’s elbow are completely effective. Our patients are happy to be pain-free and able to resume their regular activities with renewed vigor. Because our doctors know that no two cases are identical, we will customize your treatment to your individual needs. Our treatment options include:
- Rest, followed by activity modification
- An elbow brace to support your arm and restrict irritating movement
- Ice packs and NSAIDs, like aspirin or ibuprofen, to reduce pain and swelling
- Physical therapy to stabilize and strengthen the elbow and wrist joints
- Ultrasound-guided injections of a corticosteroid and analgesics to reduce inflammation and decrease pain
- PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field) technology to decrease pain and stimulate healing
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections to accelerate healing
On the off chance that you are one of the few patients who do require surgery for golfer’s elbow, our well-connected practitioners will refer you to surgical colleagues with outstanding credentials. In such cases, we will continue to provide you with presurgical and postsurgical therapy to make sure your recovery is smooth and uneventful.
The physical therapy prescribed by Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine is specific and evidence-based. Our affiliated physical therapists educate as they heal, showing you exercises that will strengthen your elbow, wrist, and arm. They may also administer ultrasound therapy, electric stimulation of your muscles, and/or extracorporeal shock wave therapy.
Contact One of Our Long Island Rehabilitation Medicine Offices Today
If you are looking for relief from pain and restored mobility without surgical intervention, our excellent doctors and supportive staff are here to help. Beyond our deserved reputation for clinical excellence, we are unparalleled in compassionate care. Our holistic approach ensures that you will always receive our undivided attention and personal concern.
Golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, is similar to tennis elbow, except the area of pain and pathology is located on the tendons attached to the inside part of the elbow. Symptoms and the course of treatment are similar to that of lateral epicondylitis.
As in lateral epicondylitis, a US-guided corticosteroid injection may be indicated in certain cases. PRP therapy, a relatively new type of regenerative medicine therapy, may also be helpful in treating subacute or chronic cases. Contact us today to schedule your first appointment.