Understanding & Treating Golfers’ Elbow
It’s May and we’re finally getting some beautiful weather in Michigan. Which means many Michiganders are finally getting out on the links in the fresh air and sunshine. But with golf comes related aches, pains and injuries – such as the all-too-common “golfers’ elbow.” But with a little preparation this painful condition can be avoided.
Preventing Golfer’s Elbow
Golf is a rigorous, demanding sport, and proper conditioning will not only help your game, it will help you avoid injuries as well. Hopefully, you have not taken the whole fall and winter off being a couch potato!
Before getting back into the swing of golf, you should be able to move fluidly, without pain or stiffness. You should also be able to perform the basics of strength conditioning: squatting, hinging, pressing, pulling, planking, jumping and throwing. Even though these moves seem unrelated to golf, they are essential for a powerful swing with maximum force, and to protect you from injury.
Before you head out to play, incorporate dynamic activities that get your body moving, your heart beating faster, and your muscles warmed up. Consider brisk walking, jumping rope and/or doing jumping jacks to fire up your body. Dynamic stretches, incorporating movement of the shoulders, arms, hands and wrists are also helpful to reduce the chance of injury.
Causes of Golfer’s Elbow
Overuse of the muscles that allow you to bend your fingers and wrist causes Golfer’s Elbow. When these muscles are overused, the tendons are repeatedly tugged at their point of attachment, which is called the medial epicondyle. As a result, the tendons become inflamed (tendonitis) – and repeated, tiny tears develop that cause the pain.
Although this is a common injury in golf, it can also develop in throwing sports, and in racquet sports. It also may occur due to occupational activities such as carpentry or data entry.
Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow
Pain in the bony bump of the elbow on the side closest to the body is the most obvious indicator of this condition. The pain may also radiate along the entire inner side of the forearm when the wrist is bent. You may also notice pain when you make a fist.
If you begin to notice pain on the bony bump on the inner side of the elbow, this could indicate the condition of golfer’s elbow, also known medial epicondylitis.
The elbow joint is comprised of the bone in the upper arm (the humerus) and one of the bones in the lower arm (the ulna), joined together by forearm muscles and tendons. The bony bumps at the bottom of the humerus are called epicondyles. The bump on the inside of the elbow is called the medial epicondyle. The tendons of the muscles that work to bend your wrist attach at the medial epicondyle. Medial epicondylitis may also be referred to as wrist flexor tendonitis.
Treatment for Golfer’s Elbow
If you are suffering from Golfer’s Elbow, you should see a hand doctor as soon as possible for evaluation. The doctor will typically apply an elastic bandage around your elbow to keep the swelling down. The doctor may also prescribe an elbow strap for you to wear just below the tender spot on the elbow. This will allow the forearm muscles to pull against the strap instead of against the tender area of your elbow.
Your doctor may also prescribe oral anti-inflammatory drugs, or give you an injection of corticosteroid medication around the injured area, to reduce inflammation. Specific exercises to regain range of motion and strength will also be prescribed. In severe cases of medial epicondylitis, surgery may be required.
Ice packs applied to the elbow for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times per day should be continued for 2 to 3 days, or until the pain goes away. If the elbow is swollen, you should elevate it on a pillow when lying down, or on the back of a chair or the couch when sitting up. While recovering from Golfer’s Elbow, you should avoid golfing, throwing and similar activities.
Returning to Golfing
In general, the longer you have symptoms before you begin rehabilitation, the longer the time period of recovery. Returning to golfing or your other sport or activity will be determined by your rate of healing, rather than a set number of days or weeks.
Remember, continuing to perform the activity while the arm is injured could cause permanent damage. Dedication to executing the exercises, and performing them with the correct form, will also accelerate the rate of healing. The goal of rehabilitation is to get you back to full function as soon as it is safe for you to do so.
When you can forcefully grip your tennis racquet, bat or golf club, or type on a keyboard painlessly, it is safe to return to the activity. In the case of an injury in gymnastics, it is imperative that you can bear weight on the elbow painlessly; that there is no swelling at the elbow and that your strength and range of motion in the injured elbow is equal to the uninjured one.
Preventing Golfer’s Elbow
Medial epicondylitis occurs due to overuse of the muscles that bend your wrist. Avoidance of this overuse is the best prevention. At the earliest signs of pain on the inner side of your elbow, slow down your activity and seek treatment. Wearing a tennis elbow strap and doing elbow stretching exercises will help you prevent medial epicondylitis.
Macomb County Golfer’s Elbow Doctor
If you are suffering from an injury or pain in your fingers, wrist, elbow or arm, contact board certified hand Macomb County hand surgeon Doctor Rehman for a comprehensive evaluation and consultation. As with most medical conditions, early detection, awareness, and a prevention or treatment plan is the most effective way to combat the effects of Golfer’s Elbow.
Doctor Rehman will assess your individual situation, and prescribe the treatments that are best for your condition – so you can safely return to playing the game you love.