The anterior forearm contains several muscles that are involved with flexing the fingers and thumb, and flexing and pronating the wrist. The tendons of these muscle come together in a common tendinous sheath, which originates from the medial epicondyle of the humerus at the elbow joint. In response to minor injury, or sometimes for no obvious reason at all, this point of insertion becomes inflamed.
Before anesthetics and steroids are used, conservative treatment with an occupational therapist may be attempted. Before therapy can commence, treatment such as the common rest, ice, compression and elevation (R.I.C.E.) will typically be used. This will help to decrease the pain and inflammation. The rest will help with the discomfort seeing as how golfer’s elbow is an overuse injury. The patient can use a tennis elbow splint for compression. A pad can be placed anteromedially on the proximal forearm. The splint is made in 30–45 degrees of elbow flexion. A daytime elbow pad also may be useful, by limiting additional trauma to the nerve.
Therapy will include a variety of exercises for muscle/tendon reconditioning, starting with stretching and gradual strengthening of the flexor-pronator muscles. Strengthening will slowly begin with isometrics and progresses to eccentric exercises helping to extend the range of motion back to where it once was. After the strengthening exercises, it is common for the patient to ice the area.
Simple analgesic medication has a place, as does more specific treatment with oral anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). The overall prognosis is good. Few patients will need to progress to steroid injection and even fewer, less than 10%, will need surgical intervention.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call us at (405) 418-4500.