Golfer’s elbow doesn’t only affect golfers. This condition is usually the result of repetitive movements that put a lot of strain on the wrist, forearm muscles and elbow. Even though suffering from golfer’s elbow is a painful experience, it is possible to treat this condition at home and get back to the golf course within a month or so.
What Is Golfer’s Elbow?
Medial epicondylitis, formally called golfers elbow, affects the tendons that connect the forearm to the elbow. These tendons become painful and inflamed due to repetitive forceful movements.
This is a condition that affects golfers because hitting the ball with the club means that the hands and wrists absorb repetitive shocks throughout a round of golf. The swinging movements that a golfer typically performs can also put a lot of strain on the wrists and forearm muscles.
These repetitive movements cause small tears to appear in the muscles and tendons. Even though the damaged tissue is limited to the tendons, this condition affects the hands and wrists by limiting your range of motion or causing weakness.
Golfers aren’t the only ones affected. Pitcher’s elbow is a similar condition caused by repetitive throwing motions, and tennis elbow is similar even though it affects a different area.
Most Common Symptoms
The medial epicondyle is a small bone located in the inside of your elbow. This bone should be visible when you bend your elbow. This is where the tendons are attached to the elbow, and this area should feel tender and painful.
The pain and tenderness can spread to the inside of your elbow and shoot down your forearm. Experiencing pain and weakness when clenching your fists or trying to pick up objects is another telltale sign that you suffer from golfer’s elbow.
You might also feel pain when rotating your wrist inwards or when pressing your palm down on a flat surface. Note that you might only experience inner elbow pain and not have any other symptoms if you suffered a mild tear in your tendons.
In some cases, your elbow, forearm, and wrist might feel stiff before the pain appears. This symptom is often overlooked, but this is something to watch out for if you have experienced golfer’s elbow before.
How Is Golfer’s Elbow Diagnosed?
In a lot of cases, you can diagnose golfer’s elbow yourself by feeling around for pain and tenderness. Think about your recent activities. If you play golf on a regular basis, tennis, or any sport with repetitive throwing movements and are experiencing pain in the inside of your elbow, look no further.
Schedule a doctor’s appointment to get a professional’s opinion and explore your treatment options. Your doctor will be able to assess the severity of the tear and will recommend the best way to treat your golfer’s elbow.
Your doctor will probably ask you to perform different wrist movements to determine what hurts and feel the area for pain and tenderness. You might need to have more tests done to rule out other conditions that could cause similar symptoms, especially if you didn’t practice any sports recently.
Some X-rays might be needed to rule out any issues with your joint or a calcium deposit in the elbow area. An MRI scan will show your tendons, muscles, and bones and might be needed to determine the exact area of the tear. An MRI scan won’t be necessary unless you sustained an elbow injury or unless your doctor cannot diagnose you with a simple examination.
How to Treat Golfer’s Elbow
You will go through three phases when treating your golfer’s elbow. The first stage of golfer’s elbow treatment consists of resting and managing your pain. You will need to give your tendons enough time to heal, and can then move on to strengthening your arm.
Avoid using your arm as much as possible. Your wrist and elbow need to rest so the inflamed tendons can heal. You will probably find that elevating your wrist and elbow helps with the pain and tenderness.
Wearing a compression sleeve over your forearm and elbow can help keep the muscles and tendons in place. Cold treatments will also help with pain and inflammation, but you shouldn’t apply ice or cold compresses for more than 15 minutes once an hour.
You can use Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatories to manage the pain. Ideally, you should avoid moving your arm and rest for at least three days.
The best thing to do is use a combination of rest, elevation, cold treatment, compression, and Ibuprofen to see what helps the most with your symptoms. You might be tempted to stretch, but immobility is best when the symptoms of golfer’s elbow first appear.
Give Your Tendons Time To Heal
You can start using other treatments after resting for at least three days. Hot treatments will stimulate blood flow and help your tendons and muscles heal, but they shouldn’t be used initially since warmth won’t help with inflammation.
Wearing an elbow brace should make a difference. These braces relieve the tension and strain on your tendons.
Keep taking Ibuprofen to manage inflammation and remember that resting is important. Your elbow should feel better after two weeks, but it isn’t quite time yet to get back to the golf course.
Strengthening Your Arm
Your golfer’s elbow won’t heal unless you rest your arm for at least two weeks. However, rest and immobility will reduce the muscle mass in your forearms. This is why you need to strengthen your arm before you can practice any sport.
Always stretch your arms before and after exercising. You should stop if you experience pain and shouldn’t start working on strengthening your arms if you are still experiencing pain and tenderness.
The best way to rebuild your muscles and tendons after resting is to keep your elbow on a flat surface and rotate your wrist in an outward motion while squeezing a stress ball. Schedule an appointment with a physical therapist if you are not seeing an improvement after a few days.
If none of these treatments work, more tests might be needed to determine if you suffer from another condition or if the damage to the tendons is more serious than originally thought.
What To Do If Golfer’s Elbow Is A Chronic Problem
If your golfer’s elbow is a chronic problem or doesn’t go away after a few weeks, there are other treatment options to explore. Sports massages are often used to help damaged tissues heal and will also reduce the tension in your muscles and tendons.
A cortisone injection can help with a severe case of inflammation. This is an option to explore if Ibuprofen and other treatments don’t help with the pain. Laser treatments are also available to reduce inflammation, even though they are not a common option.
Surgery might be needed for more severe cases. It is possible to remove the damaged tissues from the tendons if they limit your range of motion and don’t heal. The downside of surgery is that there is a lengthy recovery and healing process.
If you suffer from chronic golfer’s elbow, you should meet with a physical therapist. This professional will show you some exercises you can do to strengthen your forearm and reduce the strain on your wrist and elbow.
You should also think about working with an instructor so you can improve your posture and technique while playing sports. There will always be some kind of strain on your body when playing golf, baseball, tennis or any other sport, but it is possible to reduce this strain by adopting a proper form.
Wait for your golfer’s elbow to completely heal before going back to playing sports. It is best to start again at a slow pace and to wear a compression sleeve to help with posture.
Preventing Golfer’s Elbow
Stronger muscles will absorb shocks better and reduce the strain on your wrist and elbow when you hit the ball. Lifting weights or even squeezing a tennis ball will help develop your forearm muscles.
Stretching before playing golf or any other sport will also reduce your risk of injury. You should look into improving your posture and golfing technique since having a good form when hitting the ball will reduce the strain on your wrists and forearms.
If you feel pain, tenderness or stiffness while playing, stop right away. Get some rest and wait for these symptoms to disappear before you play again.
Golfer’s elbow is a condition that you can develop by playing golf on a regular basis or by engaging in other sports that involve repetitive motions, such as throwing a baseball. This is a painful condition but you can recover within a month and get back to playing your favorite sport. See a doctor if you experience serious pain, if you don’t see any improvement after resting, or if your golfer’s elbow returns.