Are you suffering from golfers’ elbow? Find out here!
What is golfer’s elbow?
Golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylopathy, is the most common cause of medial (inside) elbow pain and usually seen in people aged 35 – 55 years old. It is a type of tendinopathy that comes on gradually over time and results in pain and inflammation in the tendons connecting your forearm and elbow. The repeated stress and damage to the muscles and tendons around the elbow become irritated and inflamed. Most elbow movements will be pain-free, however specific gripping movements including swinging a golf club can be painful. Don’t be fooled however, you don’t need to play golf to be suffering from this injury!
Golfer’s elbow is an overuse injury that is often experienced by athletes such as golfers, throwing sport athletes, tennis and racquet sports, weightlifters and other sports that involve extensive forearm use. Athletes aren’t the only ones at risk of developing golfer’s elbow, workers who perform physical tasks and jobs with repetitive arm use, lifting and forearm motions (such as carpentry) are also at risk of developing this injury.
Signs and symptoms
Golfer’s elbow is characterized by pain and tenderness on the inner elbow. The pain can extend along the inner side of the forearm. Other symptoms can include:
Gradual onset of symptoms over time
Pain is worse when attempting to grip things
Weakness in the hand or wrist
Numbness or tingling sensations in the fingers
Stiffness of the elbow
Referred pain can mimic A golfer’s elbow
A significant portion of people who experience pain on the inside of the elbow are not experiencing golfer’s elbow. Pain can be referred from the cervical spine, along the median nerve to the medial elbow. Ensure to see an experienced golfer’s elbow physiotherapist to determine the specific cause of your pain.
Physio for golfer’s elbow
After a golfer's elbow has been detected, treatment should begin promptly. Earlier commencement of an effective treatment plan can lead to a faster recovery and a faster return to normal activity. The type of treatment recommended will largely depend on the severity of your condition and your physiotherapist will determine the best option. Treatments that are commonly prescribed can include:
Modification of activities responsible for tendon irritation
Initially, reducing activates that aggravate and cause pain in your elbow can alleviate pain. Resting the elbow will have short-term relief of pain, however, as soon as you return to the activity, the pain can often return. The tendons within the elbow do not have the capacity to take on an extra load and so become painful again. However, complete rest can often make the problem worse.
Using an ice pack can ease pain by numbing the affected area, as well as reduce swelling and inflammation. Wrap an ice pack in a damp towel and put it on the affected area for 15 – 20 minutes every 4 hours at the start of your injury.
3. Anti-inflammatory pain medication
Taking NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can be used to relieve some of the pain and inflammation within the elbow during the initial phase of your injury. Always stay within the recommended dose and chat to your GP or golf physiotherapist to see if anti-inflammatory pain medication is right for you.
4. Golfer’s elbow braces, wraps, and supportive devices
If you have a golfer's elbow sometimes braces can help with symptoms. The pressure of the strap helps reduce pain and strain on muscles close to the attachment of the elbow. These devices can be helpful in the short term while you work on a long-term fix with your physiotherapist.
5. Golfer’s elbow physiotherapy exercises including strength building and stretches
Our specialized golf physiotherapists at Melbourne Sports Physio can identify which phase of injury you are in and recommend appropriate exercises to rehabilitate your elbow. Some common exercises prescribed include:
Golfer’s elbow stretch
Extend your affected arm in front of you with your fingers and palm facing up
2. Use your opposite hand t gently pull your fingers and wrist down toward your body
3. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds
4. Repeat 2 – 5 times
Isometric wrist strengthening
1. Whilst seated, place your forearm on a table with your palm facing up
2. Press you opposite palm into the affected hand
3. Move your affected hand upwards as you use the opposite hand to create resistance by pushing down
4. Continue for 10 seconds and then gently release.
5. Repeat 5 times
Resisted wrist flexion and extension
Whilst seated hold a small weight in your affected arm (0.5 – 1kg)
2. Place your forearm on a table or the arm of a chair with your hand hanging over the edge and your palm facing down
3. Slowly lower your hand down before raising it back up
4. Do 1 – 3 sets of 15 reps
Unfortunately, tendons can take weeks or months to fully settle. Remember tendons do not like change, so it takes time to build them up to tolerate high physical activity levels! However, long term prognosis is often good if a strong and detailed exercise rehab program is prescribed. That means you can fix your problem with the right help!
At Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy our physiotherapists can help identify which activities have caused your elbow pain and devise a treatment program to decrease pain and return you back to the activities you enjoy pain free.
If you suspect you have golfers elbow or have been told you have a golfers elbow, make the smart decision and book in for an assessment at Melbourne Sports Physio to delve into your symptoms, and get a solution to your elbow problems.
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