This specific inflammation in the elbow area, is very common among the golfers, hence the name. However, epidemiological studies have indicated that “golfer’s elbow” is not limited among those involved in this sport. The key protagonist is the epicondyle, a small, tuberculated eminence, on the outer and the inner side at the end of the humerus, which protrudes when the elbow is bent at a 90-degree angle. Thus, the “golfer’s elbow” is also referred to as medial epicondylitis; accordingly, there is also the lateral epicondylitis, also known as “tennis elbow”.
WHICH ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms in both conditions are common, except for the part regarding the pain: when there is an inflammation on the inner side of the condyle, it centers on the inside of the elbow. The onset of pain (or burning sensation) is gradual, it progresses through days and even weeks, and usually after particularly intense periods of fatigue. In the acute phase, impairment of the arm function, along with muscle weakness of the wrist and fingers are observed - simple movements, such as opening a door or even a handshake, cause pain to the patient. It is also very likely that an epicondylitis is found in both arms.
HIGH RISK GROUPS
According to epidemiological data, in the USA, the medial epicondylitis accounts for 10-20% of all diagnoses of epicondylitis, and usually refers to the arm which is used the most. The inflammation generated in the elbow area is thought to be due to the long term and recurrent forceful occupational movements, which cause minor injuries to the tendons, hence the term “golfer’s elbow”. The movement to ‘’blame’’, is the continuous downward bending of the wrist, along with the simultaneous inward turning of the hand. More vulnerable - except for those who play golf - are those who use a shovel but also throwing athletes, archers, weightlifters, and those involved in bowling.
WHICH IS THE BEST TREATMENT?
Early diagnosis leads to the best treatment. The orthopaedist shall ask the patient to perform some simple tests, while they may ask for an ultrasonography and / or an MRI. Usually, conservative therapy through rest, ice therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling, or physiotherapy, are applied. In order for the muscles and tendons to recover, it may be necessary to use special straps on the forearm. Steroid injections help directly and very effectively.
If the symptoms do not subside after about 8-12 weeks - a rare event - the doctor may recommend surgery. Surgical removal of the affected muscles and tendons (scar tissue) is performed, most of the time.