Golfer’s Elbow: A Guide To Diagnosing and Treating This Common Golf Injury

golfer holding elbow in pain

Golf is a sport that can relax us and keep us sane in the hustle and bustle craziness of the world. Many weekends are occupied by the sport. Some of the luckier individuals make a living playing this sport. However, sometimes it can lead to aches and pains. It has happened to many of us, we go to swing our beloved club and the inner elbow begins to ache. Golfers elbow is a common injury and, in most cases, fairly easy to treat.

What is Golfer’s Elbow?

Golfer’s elbow or Medial Epicondylitis is an injury to the tendon of the elbow. It is a similar injury to tennis elbow that occurs to the outside tendon. Simply put, it is a swollen and irritated tendon. Rest assured, golfer’s elbow will not take you out of the game, at least not permanently. We will help you to better understand this injury and help you to stay on top of your game.

What Causes It?

The elbow is an important factor in being able to lift. This joint aids in the muscles in being able to rotate when we turn our wrist. Though the joint helps in strenuous activities, it is quite delicate to repetitive motions or misuse. Which means, it can be easy to injure this area.

The causes of golfer’s elbow are the repetitive motion of your golf swing, using the wrong equipment, or even an improper hold or swing with your club. It can put wear and tear on that tendon in the elbow and lead to pain, swelling, and micro-tears in the elbow that do not get a chance to heal fully. Some people may also lose some of their strength in the injured limb due to the muscles that control the closing of the fingers are part of the group of muscles and tendons in the elbow. Anytime there is pain, damage is occurring and scar tissue will begin to form.

Risk Factors

The following factors can mean you are at a higher risk of developing a golfer’s elbow injury.

  • Over the age of 40
  • Obesity
  • Engaging in repetitive activity two or more hours a day
  • Smoking

Symptoms

There are several symptoms to keep an eye out for. Recognizing these symptoms are critical in knowing when to seek treatment or that it is time to take a break.

doctor diagnosing a female patients elbow

If you begin to suffer from any of the following symptoms, speak with your doctor to make sure you are doing everything you can for your treatment.

  • Pain and/or tenderness on the inner elbow
  • Pain or tenderness throughout the arm to the fingers
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Numbness or tingling

Symptoms will vary in severity and some people may only have some of the symptoms. A simple exam will rule out other possible issues. Some doctors may also do x-rays to rule out the possibility of other injuries. Your body knows more than you, always listen to it.

How Do I Treat Golfer’s Elbow?

There are many options for golfers elbow treatment. Depending on the severity, length of time the injury has been going on, and if it is a repeat injury will decide the course of treatment. Some cases can be self-diagnosed and even treated at home without the need of a doctor. Though it is recommended to always seek the assistance of a doctor to rule out other possibilities.

For the milder cases it is possible that all that will need to be done is rest. Rest may need to be completed for up to 12 weeks. This will depend on the severity and how fast your body heals. During this time using ice and heat can also increase the healing time. If the pain or swelling are particularly bothersome, pain medication is also an option. Anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, will aid in alleviating pain and some swelling. During this time, it is important to avoid activities or to modify activities so that the elbow is not in pain. If it hurts, then there is a possibility that you will cause more damage and lengthen your healing time.

For those who are suffering from a more moderate to severe injury, it may take more than rest, ice, and pain medication. It may also take longer to heal. There are people who find wearing a brace alleviates symptoms and will even wear braces or compression sleeves when golfing. This gives support to the elbow and will keep tendons in the correct spot when golfing. This is a non-invasive form of golfers elbow treatment.

Deep Tissue Regenerative Therapy is also an option to help in the treatment process. This is a newer therapy and is when you increase your blood flow to help heal your own body. Increasing the blood flow to your elbow will decrease the amount of time it takes to recover, boost the healing, and minimize the scar tissue that can occur with such an injury. The therapy can be completed with a special wrap, laser, or even massage. Speak to your doctor about finding a qualified specialist.

For particularly bothersome symptoms a doctor may also decide to use cortisone shots to aid in the healing and decrease the inflammation of the tendon. A doctor will inject cortisone directly into the tendon to give immediate treatment to the tendon. This is an uncomfortable procedure, but can aid in the recovery speed and even the outcome. However, there is the possibility that you will increase your scar tissue at the injured site should you choose this method. Long term, this could lead to pain later down the road or even ongoing muscle weakness.

In extreme cases and injuries, it may be necessary to have surgery. This is not the common route of treatment and generally occurs after irreparable damage from multiple injuries. The tendon is no longer or incapable of healing itself. So, the best course of action is to surgically repair the tendon. A surgery such as this will take you out of the game for several months while the arm heals and it is possible that some physical therapy will be needed to get the arm back into action.

How Do I Prevent Golfer’s Elbow?

There are preventative measures that can be in place to assist the body in preventing golfer’s elbow. These measures will help you to be able to stay in the game and to not have to go through golfers elbow treatment.

The following will help you up your chances of avoiding this injury:

Step 1

The first step to avoiding this injury is to strengthen the forearm muscles. Simple golfers elbow exercises can be done with light weights or squeezing a tennis ball. This will help your muscles to learn and be able to absorb the energy that occurs with sudden physical stress. It will also keep your body in shape so that the likelihood of injury is decreased. Golfers elbow exercises can be completed easily in the comfort of your home. You can even complete them when watching T.V., working at your desk, or on a nightly walk. Fit time in for exercises daily.

Step 2

Make sure to always stretch before playing golf. Warm up your muscles with a brisk walk or a jog. Stretch out your muscles and prepare your body before the game. Warm muscles will perform better and are prepared for physical activity. When a muscle is cold, this is when injuries are most likely to occur and can lead to painful and long healing.

Step 3

Always remember that form matters. Seek instruction to verify that you are using proper form and to avoid overloading your muscles. An instructor will be knowledgeable enough to know what form will work best with your body type and your personal physical fitness.

Step 4

Ensure that you are always using the proper equipment. Make sure that your clubs and shoes are the correct weight, size, and style for you. There are many options out there and using the incorrect one for your body can lead to injury. It may require you to purchase proper equipment, but this would be a long term investment in your physical wellbeing.

Step 5

Remind yourself to lift items properly. It is easy to get caught up in the game and even in exercise. When lifting anything, including weights, make sure to keep your wrist stable and rigid so that the force is reduced on your elbow.

Step 6

The most important step to remember is this, know when to rest. Don’t overuse your elbow if it is aching and if it begins to hurt, take a short break. Playing through the pain does not make you strong, it will lead to weakness in your elbow and you having to take a longer break from the sport you love. Our bodies are much smarter than we give them credit.

These steps may not prevent you from getting injured, but they will lessen the chance and will lead to overall better sports health.

Golf can play an important role in mental health and gives the body much needed exercise. Like any sport, injuries may occur. Prevention measures and quick treatment are the key to staying in the game. If your doctor states that rest is needed, listen. He or she is not trying to keep you away from something you enjoy, but trying to make sure that you can enjoy the sport for years to come.

Don’t let golfer’s elbow take you out of the game. Follow this simple guide to stay on top of your sport health and to continue engaging in the activity you love.

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