Golfers elbow is the common name for medial epicondylitis, an injury to the muscles and tendon on the inside of your elbow. This normally happens from repetitive stress, overuse or sudden trauma is placed on the area.
The muscles of your forearm combine to form the common flexor tendon. Your tendon connects your muscles into the bone on the inside of your elbow joint. All the stress that is placed on your fingers, hand and wrist is concentrated on this small area. Like many injuries, golfers elbow occurs when the stress put on these tissues, outweighs your body’s ability to repair.
Over time the injury causes pain, inflammation and then micro tears in your tendon. Your injury will get worse if you continue doing the activity that caused it. Continual damage will result in degeneration, this can result in complete tendon rupture. Golfers elbow doesn’t have to stop you doing your favourite activities.With Some rest and a good rehabilitation program, you’ll be back on the course in no time.
Causes of golfers elbow
Not a golfer? Most people who get golfers elbow do not play golf. Any activity that repeatedly stresses the muscles that bend the fingers, wrist and turn the forearm inwards, can result in injury. Golfers elbow normally occurs when you start doing unaccustomed activities. The pain can build up slowly or come on suddenly. However it can still happen when you’re used to the activity. The things most likely to trigger golfers elbow include:
- Playing golf: Swinging or gripping the club incorrectly.
- Computer work: excessive use of the mouse and keyboard.
- Racket sports: Using a small, heavy or tightly strung racket and doing lots of topspin.
- Building work: hammering, painting, sawing etc..
- Throwing sports: Poor technique when throwing a baseball or cricket ball.
The main symptom of golfers elbow is pain around the inside of your elbow joint and forearm. The discomfort is likely to be made worse, if you:
- grip tightly
- open jars
- bend and straighten your elbow or wrist
Like most injuries, the quicker you start treatment, the sooner you’ll be back to your normal activities. Here are the most important things that you can do to speed up your recovery:
- Rest: the single most important thing that you can do, is to rest. Put your sport or other aggravating activities on hold. Continual aggravation of your condition, may only make it worse.
- Ice: use an ice pack on the inside of your elbow for around 10 minutes, two to five times a day. Do not apply the ice pack directly to your skin. Instead, use a thin cloth or a couple of layers of kitchen roll to prevent ice burns.
- Manual therapy: find a knowledgable osteopath or physical therapist, such as the Enfield Osteopath. Your practitioner should perform therapeutic ultrasound to reduce inflammation and speed up healing.
Then soft tissue massage and joint mobilisation to reduce tension and improve mobility.
- Strengthening and stretching exercises: follow the advice and exercises provided in the golfers elbow rehabilitation program. These exercises can be done as often as, every other day. Mild discomfort is okay, but stop if you experience pain
- Medications: you may find using some over-the-counter pain killers and anti-inflammatories such as paracetamol and ibuprofen useful. This will help to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Steroid Injection: it’s certainly worth considering a steroid injection if your pain is severe and your elbow is not responding to conservative treatment. Steroid injections do not heal the tendon, in-fact it can damage the tendon sheath. However the steroid is a very effective pain killer and anti-inflammatory.
5 top tips to prevent golfers elbow
- The best preventative measure that you can take, is to avoid overusing your elbow joint and local muscles.
- If you feel pain in the elbow when doing an activity, stop. Pain is your bodies warning sign that something is wrong.
- Use appropriate equipment, a club, racket or hammer that is too thick, too thin or too heavy can result in problems.
- Get a golf coach or seek expert advice. Poor technique and bad posture can cause golfers elbow to occur.
- Perform regulars stretches to the muscles in and around the elbow, to keep them soft and supple.