Golfer’s elbow or “thrower’s elbow” refers to a chronic condition affecting the flexor-pronator musculature that inserts on the medial epicondyle of the humerus bone in the elbow. The flexor-pronator mass is an important group of five forearm muscles that helps stabilize the elbow and allow you to flex and turn your wrist.
Repetitive overuse of these muscles and the medial common flexor tendon can cause tiny tears to form in the tendon where the muscle inserts into the medial epicondyle on the inside of the elbow. These micro-tears cause inflammation, swelling, and pain. Repetitive use of the elbow and forearm exacerbates the problem, causing increasing damage as the muscle rubs against the bony nodules of the epicondyle bone.
Anyone who repetitively strains their forearm muscles is at risk of developing medial epicondylitis. Athletes, musicians, carpenters, painters, chefs, mechanics, plumbers, and those engaging in regular manual labor for work may be more likely to develop golfer’s elbow than the general population.
Most patients with golfer’s elbow report that their symptoms develop gradually and get worse over time, especially if they continue activities that exacerbate their symptoms. Common symptoms include pain that worsens with wrist and forearm motion and gripping. In golfers, the pain is usually felt during late cocking and early acceleration. Patients report tenderness near the medial epicondyle and may have swelling and warmth in that area due to inflammation.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Golfer’s Elbow
- Rest: Resting the affected arm and avoiding activities that cause pain can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.
- Activity Modifications: Stop activities that hurt the affected tendon and musculature, allowing inflammation to subside.
- Ice therapy: Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce pain and swelling.
- Physical therapy: Stretching and strengthening exercises can help improve the flexibility and strength of the muscles and tendons in the affected arm.
- Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen, can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Bracing: Wearing a brace or splint on the affected arm can help provide support and reduce strain on the tendon.
- Corticosteroid injections: In some cases, a corticosteroid injection may be recommended to reduce inflammation and pain.
Golfer’s Elbow Surgery
If non-surgical treatments for golfer’s elbow do not provide sufficient relief, surgical options may be considered. The most common surgical treatment for golfer’s elbow includes open debridement and reattachment of the flexor-pronator mass.
During this procedure, we make a small incision in the skin over the medial epicondyle and remove damaged tissue and bone spurs from the area surrounding the flexor-pronator mass before reattaching the musculature to the medial epicondyle. Our goal is to relieve pressure on the affected tendon to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain.
Medial epicondyle surgery is performed on an outpatient basis at our ambulatory Northern Arizona SurgiCenter in Flagstaff, AZ, and can be done using local or general anesthesia. Recovery time varies depending on the extent of the surgery, your overall health, and goals. Most patients wear a sling for one to go weeks to avoid flexion of the wrist after the surgery. Strengthening exercises are usually prescribed to ensure proper recovery, and patients can usually return to sport within three to six months.
Medical Review: This procedural information has been medically reviewed by plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Brian A. Cripe, M.D.