Medial elbow tendinopathy, commonly known as tennis elbow or golf elbow, is a prevalent ailment among individuals who participate in high-level tennis and golf. Surprisingly, despite its prevalence, there remains a lack of awareness regarding its causes, symptoms, and effective treatment options, leaving many sufferers in the dark.
Medial elbow tendinopathy manifests as inflammation and degeneration of the tendons that connect to the medial epicondyle, a bony prominence on the inner side of the elbow. The repetitive stress and strain placed on these tendons can result in microtears and subsequent pain.
From understanding the underlying mechanisms of this condition to exploring various strategies for relieving discomfort and promoting recovery, Dr. Brian Cable, a renowned expert in the field, provides invaluable insights on the five essential aspects of medial elbow tendinopathy.
- Causes of Medial Elbow Tendinopathy
The underlying cause of medial elbow tendinopathy, often referred to as golfer’s elbow, can be attributed to the repetitive motions involved in certain activities. Within the elbow, there exist tendons that serve as resilient connective tissue, linking the muscles to the bones and facilitating their coordinated movement.
“The primary culprit behind medial epicondylitis is the repetitive nature of actions performed during activities like golf and tennis,” says Dr. Brian Cable. “For instance, the repetitive swings of a golf club exert excessive strain on these tendons, leading to overuse and subsequent injury.”
Understanding the causal relationship between these repetitive motions and the onset of medial elbow tendinopathy is crucial in developing effective prevention strategies and implementing targeted treatment approaches for athletes and individuals engaged in activities that involve similar repetitive movements.
- Common Symptoms of Medial Elbow Tendinopathy
Medial elbow tendinopathy, also known as MET, can manifest in various ways, with symptoms that may arise suddenly during activity or gradually worsen over time.
Notes Dr. Cable, “The severity of the condition can range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain that hampers joint function and mobility.”
The primary symptoms associated with medial elbow tendinopathy include:
- Elbow stiffness or difficulty in utilizing the joint, leading to limited range of motion.
- Specific pain localized on the inner side of the elbow, near the medial epicondyle.
- Weakness in the hand and wrist, making it challenging to perform tasks that were once effortless.
- Numbness or tingling sensations, particularly in the ring finger and little finger.
- Impaired elbow mobility, resulting in difficulties with movements and actions involving the joint.
- Radiating pain that extends from the elbow down the arm and into the wrist, sometimes causing confusion with wrist-related issues.
Individuals with MET typically struggle with daily activities like opening doors or shaking hands, indicating the involvement of the elbow. Pain may arise during specific phases of the serve motion, such as the late cocking phase and early acceleration phase, as well as during forehand strokes when the wrist snaps forward.
- Diagnosing Medial Elbow Tendinopathy
Accurately diagnosing medial elbow tendinopathy can pose challenges. Advanced imaging techniques may not provide definitive results, making it difficult to pinpoint the condition. However, X-rays can be beneficial in assessing the affected area. Beyond imaging, the focus shifts to understanding the individual’s pain patterns, the specific location of pain, and the types of movements typically performed, such as involvement in tennis, golf, or other activities that may contribute to overuse of the elbow tendons.
By conducting a comprehensive evaluation, healthcare professionals can navigate the diagnostic process more effectively, leading to a more accurate identification of medial elbow tendinopathy.
- Treating Medial Elbow Tendinopathy
Treating medial elbow tendinopathy requires a comprehensive approach that acknowledges the complexity and time involved in the recovery process. Cortisone shots are generally not recommended as they offer temporary pain relief without addressing the underlying issue or promoting long-term healing.
“The key focus of treatment revolves around reducing excessive loads on the tendon, correcting any technique flaws, and implementing heavy load-based exercises to rehabilitate the affected area,” says Dr. Cable.
Patience is crucial during the recovery period as tendon healing requires time. It is important to avoid engaging in activities that may exacerbate the condition, such as improper form during gameplay. Addressing the root cause of the problem becomes a crucial initial step.
In cases where significant improvement is not observed within six months, more aggressive treatment options may need to be considered. It is important to collaborate closely with healthcare professionals to determine the most appropriate course of action based on individual circumstances and symptoms.
- Preventing Medial Elbow Tendinopathy
To prevent or minimize the risk of developing medial elbow tendinopathy, there are several preventive measures individuals can adopt.
The following strategies can be helpful in MET prevention:
- Proper Stretching – Prior to engaging in activities like golf or tennis, it is important to perform adequate stretching exercises to prepare and warm up the tendons.
- Maintain Proper Technique – Practice and maintain correct form during movements specific to the activity, as this can reduce stress on the elbow joint and tendons.
- Strengthening Exercises – Building arm strength through targeted exercises can help fortify the muscles and tendons, reducing the likelihood of injury and overuse.
- Allow for Rest – Provide sufficient rest periods for the elbow in between activities or repetitive motions to allow for recovery and minimize strain.
- Consider Temporary Modifications – In some cases, individuals may need to temporarily pause their tennis or golf activities to allow the elbow time to heal and recover.
Consulting with healthcare professionals can provide personalized guidance based on individual needs and circumstances.
Dr. Brian Cable’s Commitment to Excellence
Dr. Brian Cable‘s extensive experience and dedication to patient care have made him a trusted authority in the field of orthopedic surgery. Graduating Magna Cum Laude from UCLA and completing his Orthopedic Surgery Residency at Texas Tech University Health Science Center, Dr. Cable’s academic achievements are matched by his passion for delivering exceptional care.