How to Heal Golfer’s Elbow
Golfer's elbow (also known as medial epicondylitis) is inflammation of the tendon at the top of the forearm bone. This causes pain and swelling in the area between the elbow joint and wrist. In this article we review the various treatment options available to heal this condition.
What Is Golfer's Elbow?
Golfer's elbow is a painful condition affecting the muscles at the side of the elbow joint. The elbow pain usually starts when playing golf and worsens over several weeks until it becomes unbearable.
This injury occurs because the tendons that attach to the bone at the outside edge of the elbow become inflamed. This inflammation causes swelling and irritation of the nerves that control the muscles at the side and top of the forearm.
The anatomical diagram below shows the location of the elbow pain with golfer's elbow. In healing golfer's elbow it helps to have an understanding of the structure of the elbow joint, and how the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones help the elbow joint to function.
Acute vs Chronic Golfer's Elbow
There are two types of golfer's elbow: acute and chronic.
There are two types of golfer's elbow: acute and chronic. Acute golfer's elbow is characterized by sudden onset of elbow pain and swelling in the area where the tendon attaches to the bone. Chronic golfer's elbow is a gradual deterioration of the tendons and ligaments causing inflammation and stiffness.
Golfer's Elbow Symptoms
Symptoms of golfer's elbow include tenderness, swelling, and stiffness in the inner side of the arm just above the elbow. Pain may be felt during gripping activities, including putting and swinging a club.
The elbow pain typically starts out mild and gradually worsens over several weeks until it reaches its peak. At this point, the pain may be severe enough to prevent you from playing golf.
Golfer's elbow is often mistaken for tennis elbow. The difference is that tennis elbow is pain and inflammation on the outside of the elbow versus the inside of the arm and elbow with golfer's elbow.
Although golfer's elbow is not life threatening, it can cause significant discomfort and interfere with daily activities.
Golfer's Elbow Causes
There are many causes of golfer's elbow, including overuse injuries, repetitive activity, arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, muscle strain, and nerve damage.
The problem occurs when the tendons at the back of the upper arm become inflamed. This usually happens because the muscles are too tight and pull the tendons attached to the bones at the back of the hand. This pulls the tendons out of place and causes pain and inflammation.
Golfer's elbow is a common injury among amateur golfers. The problem occurs when the forearm muscles become too tight and pull the tendons attached to the bones at the back of the hand. This pulls the tendons out of place and causes pain and inflammation.
The pain usually occurs when the golfer swings too hard or strikes the ground with his/her arm extended. In addition, it is commonly caused from using an incorrect grip on the golf club or holding the club incorrectly.
Other factors include genetics, age, and injury. Some people are genetically predisposed to golfer's elbow because they have weak tendons. Other people develop golfer's elbow after repetitive injuries.
Diagnosis and Tests
To diagnose golfer's elbow, your doctor may perform tests to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms. Your doctor may ask questions about your job, hobbies, and lifestyle habits. He or she may examine your arm and hand.
Your doctor may order X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses radio waves and magnets to create detailed pictures of soft tissues inside the body.
If you're experiencing pain in your elbow, contact your doctor right away.
The video below provides an overview of the test that will be performed by your clincal practice for diagnosis of golfer's elbow.
Treating Golfer's Elbow
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of golfer's elbow. Treatment options include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, splints, braces, and surgery.
However, there is no absolute cure for golfer's elbow. Below we have provided some of the best healing options that you may try. A combination of these options will likely provide the best results and chance of success.
Time Off & Rest
One treatment involves taking some weeks off from any activity involving the affected elbow and complete rest. This allows the muscles to heal and reduces inflammation.
This treatment also avoids aggravating the injury further. Avoid repetitive movements and activities that cause stress on the joint. Also avoid lifting heavy weights or carrying large bags.
Use Cold Therapy Treatments
Another option is icing the arm after each round of golf. Ice helps reduce swelling and speeds healing.
If you're experiencing golfer's elbow, try cold therapy treatments. Ice packs applied directly to the painful area may help reduce inflammation and relieve some of the discomfort.
Cold therapy is especially helpful when used along with other treatment options. For instance, ice packs can be used during physical therapy sessions to ease soreness and swelling.
When combined with over-the-counter medication, ice packs can also help reduce inflammation and pain.
Apply Heat to Elbow
An alternative treatment option is to apply heat to the affected area. This may help reduce swelling and relieve some of the pain.
Heat treatment works because it increases blood flow to the area. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to cells, and removes waste products. So applying heat helps keep the muscles healthy and reduces swelling.
To treat golfer's elbow, place a heating pad on top of the affected arm.
Keep the heating pad warm for 20 minutes at a time. Repeat this process three times per day until the pain subsides.
Pain Relief Creams
Pain Relief Creams contain ingredients that reduce inflammation and ease muscle soreness. They're great for treating golfer's elbow because they work quickly and effectively. You can find pain relief creams over the counter from your pharmacy.
Alternatively, your doctor may also provide a stronger prescription containing steroids such as hydrocortisone. These creams are usually applied to the affected area twice daily.
Massage Affected Area
If you're experiencing golfer's elbow, massage the affected area daily until the inflammation subsides. Then apply ice packs to reduce swelling and discomfort. Afterward, use heat therapy to loosen tight muscles and relax sore joints. The combination of these treatments will help reduce your recovery time.
Wear Compression Sleeves
Compression sleeves work by compressing the muscles surrounding the joint, reducing inflammation and swelling. This helps reduce pain and speed recovery.
There are two types of compression sleeves: elastic and neoprene. Elastic sleeves are made of stretchy material that fits snugly over the arm. Neoprene sleeves are thicker than elastic sleeves and fit closer to the body. Both types of sleeves help relieve pain and speed healing.
Wear an Elbow Brace
To protect from further injury, wear an elbow brace during practice sessions. An elbow brace helps protect against overuse injuries and provides support for the injured area.
An elbow brace should be worn at all times during practice sessions. This includes warmups, chipping, putting, driving, and hitting balls off the tee box.
Routine Stretching & Exercise for Golfer's Elbow
Stretching and strengthening exercises are very important for preventing and treating golfers elbow. They help strengthen the muscles and tendons around the joint, making them stronger and better able to withstand the strain of swinging a golf club.
Furthermore, Golf Strength and Conditioning Exercises are also great for improving your game!
Static vs Dynamic Stretching
The most effective type of stretching exercise is called static stretching. Static stretching involves holding a position for several seconds at a stretch. Static stretches are great for improving flexibility and range of motion. However, they may not be appropriate for everyone. Static stretching should only be done after warmup exercises and before playing or practicing sports.
Another type of stretching exercise is dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching involves moving through a series of positions. These movements are usually performed slowly and gradually. Dynamic stretching helps improve muscle strength and endurance.
Strengthening exercises include weight training and resistance band exercises. Weight training strengthens the muscles used during activity. Resistance bands work similar to weights, except they're elastic instead of metal. Both types of strengthening exercises are beneficial for golfers who play golf frequently.
When performing these exercises, remember to keep your body relaxed. Avoid tensing up your muscles, especially the ones around the joints. Also avoid jerking motions. Instead, move smoothly and gently.
If you've been experiencing pain in your elbow, try some of these techniques. Your doctor may recommend additional treatments, depending on the severity of your injury.
Isometric wrist strengthening (extension and flexion)
Throughout this exercise keep your body still.
Place your affected forearm on a flat surface with your palm facing downward (extension).
Put your opposite hand on the top of your affected hand.
With your affected hand, press up, using your opposite hand to create a counterforce by pushing down.
Keep going for 10 seconds, gradually building up the resistance.
Release gently. Perform 15 repetitions.
Then repeat exercise with palm facing upward (flexion).
Resisted wrist extension and flexion
If these stretches fail to relieve pain, try performing resisted wrist extensions and resisted wrist flexions. These movements require the use of a weight or resistance band to add more resistance to the wrist extensions and flexions.
Do 1–3 sets of 15 reps. Increase weight to increase resistance and strength.
The video below provides a short instruction for this exercise.
Finally, perform ball squeezes. To perform them, place your hands behind your head, palms facing down. Then slowly squeeze the ball between your thumbs and index fingers. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat this process five times.
Seek Physical Therapy
Physical therapists use gentle stretching exercises to help loosen tight muscles and improve range of motion. They may also recommend ice packs, ultrasound treatment, electrical stimulation, massage, and other therapies to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
Use Kinesiology Tape
Kinesiology tape is a great tool for healing injuries. It works because it helps muscles relax and allows them to recover faster.
When used properly, kinesiology tape can help reduce pain, speed recovery, and prevent injury. But there are some things you need to keep in mind when applying this tape.
First, be careful not to apply too much pressure when wrapping the tape around the injured area. Too much pressure can cause further damage.
Second, avoid wearing tight clothing when applying the tape. This can restrict blood flow and slow down the healing process.
Third, use enough tape to cover the entire affected area. Don't leave any gaps.
Fourth, remove the tape after 24 hours. The tape should only stay on for 24 hours. After that, it may irritate the skin and cause discomfort.
Try OTC Pain Relievers
If you're experiencing pain in your elbow, try over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. They include ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen sodium, and others. These medications work well to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
However, be careful not to take these drugs long term because they may cause stomach ulcers. Also, some of them contain caffeine, which can dehydrate you. So use caution and only take them for short periods of time.
In conclusion, if you have a golfer's elbow (or any other kind of tennis elbow), you should definitely see a doctor. However, the steps we have outlined in this article should help ease the pain and speed up healing.