Golfer's Elbow

Golfer’s elbow is a condition that arises due to inflammation in the tendons of the elbow and makes it difficult to move. It is a very painful condition and it gets worse over time. The disease can be treated by taking proper rest and following all the safety precautions. The condition starts with little pain in the elbow and thereafter, stiffness in the elbow. The symptom is called Golfer’s elbow because the shoulder becomes it happens to people who use their wrist and elbow more and sports person are mostly affected by it. Golfer's elbow is similar to tennis elbow but in the latter inner bone muscles and tendons get infected.

The shoulder is formed of three bones, an upper arm bone (humerus), ulna, and radius. Cartilage is a tissue that helps these bones to move against each other smoothly. A joint capsule provides with the lubrication needed. The two ligaments that hold the upper arm and ulna are the medial collateral (inside), and lateral collateral (outside). The tendons are tissue that holds and connects the muscle with the bones. In tendonitis, the tissues of the tendons, (golfer's elbow- the medial collateral) get inflamed and cause stiffness and pain.

This condition can happen to anyone and is not specific to the person playing golf. Gardeners, tennis players, artists, and people using keyboards and typewriters or anyone else can develop this condition. If left untreated can lead to a lifelong problem with the very specific movement of the wrist and may extend to the forearm and hand. And if symptoms are treated immediately through rest and medicine the condition can be improved significantly.

Golfer’s Elbow: Causes

The reason for the Golfer’s elbow is not specified playing golf. However, golf players have an increased risk of developing it as they lay greater stress on the inner tendons of the elbow. Other people and sportspersons also develop this symptom.

The following are the important causes of developing a Golfer’s elbow −

  • Age. People more than 40 years of age are more liable to develop Golfer’s elbows.

  • Golf player. As the name suggests golf players are always at risk for inflammation of tendons.

  • Mountaineering. Mountaineers and other adventure lay greater stress on wrists and tendons causing medial epicondylitis.

  • Nature of work. Some of the works require continuous use of the wrist and elbow like gardeners, sculpture artists, writers, etc. excessive use of the wrist and hand without rest is the reason for medial epicondylitis.

  • Exercise. A lazy person who doesn't take care of himself and doesn't perform exercises can also get a Golfer’s elbow.

  • Heavy exercise and weightlifting. A person whom seldom exercises can have this problem so as with heavy weightlifters. They lift weights more than their capacity causing tendons to stress.

Golfer’s Elbow: Symptoms

Symptoms of the Golfer’s elbow vary from patient to patient and pain and stiffness are the major symptoms. A patient with medial epicondylitis mainly presents with the following symptoms that include −

  • A dull and aching pain in the elbow

  • The forearm and the wrist may also be painful.

  • Difficulty in holding things.

  • Difficulty in forming a grip over things.

  • The elbow will be stiff and as the symptom progress, it will get stiffer.

  • Tingling or weakness feeling in the whole hand.

  • Numbness in wrist or elbow.

  • You may feel that you are having an elbow fracture and the area around the elbow seem swollen. The conditions are to be directed to a physician immediately for further diagnosis and treatment

Golfer's Elbow: Risk Factors

Several factors play an important role in the development of a Golfer's elbow which includes −

  • Golf player. As the name suggests golf players are always at risk for inflammation of tendons.

  • Adventure activities. Adventures like hill climbing, mountaineers, and others cause greater stress on the wrist and tendons causing medial epicondylitis.

  • Artists. Artists are continuously using their wrists and at different angles for painting, drawing, designing, and other activities.

  • Lifestyle. Eating habits, smoking, lack of exercise, etc. creates much disorder and may ease the way for bone diseases.

  • Weightlifters/ boxers. Boxers and weightlifters are mostly dependent on their wrists and arm for lifting heavy weights, therefore chances are always there that they are suffering from this disorder.

  • With the increase in age, the risk for bone-associated disorders increases.

Golfer’s Elbow: Diagnosis

The diagnosis of the Golfer’s elbow is mainly done based on history and some tests may be required for confirmation and to rule out underlying causes.

  • Physical examination. The doctor will physically examine your elbow and look for signs of abnormality in movement. He will also ask about the recent injury and will look for signs of fracture. The hand and wrist area will also be seen for any tenderness.

  • Motion. The motion of the elbow is an important aspect along with pain for a Golfer’s elbow. The doctor will check for the difficulty faced in moving the elbow and the stiffness experienced by the patient.

  • X-rays. X-rays may be used to check for other problems associated with the shoulder like arthritis.

  • MRI. Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a useful modern technique used for imaging bone structure and tissue problems.

  • CT- Scans. These scans are also useful along with all the above tests to confirm tissue abnormality.

Golfer’s Elbow: Treatment

The treatment is based on the severity of the symptoms. Your doctor may advise conservative or surgical treatment.

  • Medicines. A Golfer’s elbow is very painful and to administer the pain, a painkiller may be given which helps to provide relief. Painkillers like ibuprofen, aspirin, etc. are prescribed.

  • Hot and cold treatment. These are normal and basic therapy method that helps to relieve pain and provide motion.

  • Braces. Use of braces for supporting the wrist, forearm, and elbow may be prescribed as they provide good support.

  • Physical therapy. Physiotherapists may be referred to provide physical therapy and this may be very useful. They through the motion activities will help to provide treatment.

  • Surgical methods. The surgery will be undertaken if all the above methods are not been able to provide some relief. It may happen that the pain will not ease and the stiffness increases. Surgery then opts to treat the tendon inflammation.

Golfer’s Elbow: Prevention

Some of the measures that can help to prevent Golfer’s elbow include −

  • Follow all the exercises and treatments prescribed by your physiologist. Motion exercises are very helpful in easing pain and faster treatment.

  • Maintain a healthy diet and do all the exercise regularly. Obese people suffer from many diseases hip and joint problems.

  • Do a workout and make your wrist and forearm strength.

  • Always use the correct tools and equipment.

  • Take small breaks between your activities.

  • Always train under proper guidance.

  • Do not lay much stress on your body, understand your limits.

  • Do not smoke.

  • Maintain proper weight of the body.


Golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylitis is a condition that causes inflammation in the tendons of the elbow and makes it difficult to move. It is a very painful condition and it gets worse over time. It happens when the joint fluid in the wrist capsule becomes less and the tendon tissue in the elbow gets inflamed. This condition makes the elbow, forearm, and wrist stiff. Overuse of the wrist and elbow is the main reason for this problem. This condition is treatable and can be prevented.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha


Updated on: 11-May-2023


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