Medial epicondylitis, or golfer’s elbow is a painful condition that occurs when the common origin of the flexor tendons is inflamed. The pain is found on the inner side of the elbow and may extend to your forearm, wrist, and fingertips. Patients may also experience swelling over the inside of the elbow and weakness of the hand and wrist.
Similar to its name, golfer’s elbow often occurs to elbows. However, this condition is not limited to golfers. Anyone who repeatedly uses their hands, such as chefs, keyboardists, and IT personnel, may also suffer from inner elbow pain.
This condition is typically caused by the overuse of your muscles and tendons that control your wrist and fingers. Activities that cause you to bend your wrist towards your palm forcefully, such as:
Your doctor will first conduct a medical interview and perform a focused examination of the elbow. This may include palpation of the area involved to elicit pain. You may also be asked to resist forced movements of the wrist in order to provocate the affected tendon.
Based on the results of the examination, you may be offered plain radiographs of the elbow. In some cases, MRI scans or ultrasound scans of the elbow may also be used as part of the diagnostic process.
The mainstay of treatment for a golfer’s elbow is non-surgical. This usually entails the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications, in combination with steroids and local injections into the area. Typically, a single injection coupled with a short course of physical therapy is enough to treat most the patients with golfer’s elbow. Besides medical treatment, you will also be asked to avoid activities that might worsen the pain or cause recurrence after treatment.
Injections with plasma enriched platelets into the region of the affected tendon can also be considered if initial treatment with steroids fails. This procedure utilises the healing factors derived from your own blood to help heal the damaged tendon.
In some patients, surgery may be necessary to treat recalcitrant or recurrent golfer’s elbow. One of the techniques used is radiofrequency ablation of the common flexor tendon origin at the inner portion of the elbow. This procedure is typically performed as day surgery.
The operation is safe and effective, with the majority of patients experiencing permanent relief from the condition. After the surgery, you may be asked to undergo a short course of curated physiotherapy.
A short course of physiotherapy will usually be required. This might entail “range of elbow motion” exercises, and muscle exercises to aid tendon recovery. Typically no more than 3 to 6 months of physical therapy is necessary for painkillers, an elbow wrap may also help to relieve some pain.
For assessment of your condition, please book an appointment with Dr. Yong Ren.