Written by Nicolas Perez Diaz, July 9, 2023.
Golfer’s Elbow, medically known as Medial Epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the tendons inside of the elbow. Even though it is called golfer’s elbow, it can affect individuals who participate in all sports or activities that involve repetitive wrist or finger movements.
It mainly affects the tendons inside of the elbow, especially those that join to the medial epicondyle, a bony bump on the inside of the elbow. These tendons may become inflamed, painful, and less mobile as a result of repetitive stress.
What can be mistaken for golfer’s elbow? According to oip.com:
“There’s a reason many patients confuse tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. They share quite a few characteristics: Both are overuse injuries, caused by repetitive motions involving your arm and wrist. They both are characterized by damage to the tendons that attach your forearm muscles to the bone at your elbow.”
Causes of Golfer’s elbow
Golfer’s elbow is mainly caused by repetitive wrist and finger movements that strain the tendons in the forearm. Common causes include:
- Repetitive motions
Activities that involve repetitive wrist and finger movements, such as throwing a ball, swinging a golf club, or gripping motions can cause tendons to be pulled too much.
- Incorrect technique
Poor technique, improper form, or poorly fitting or adjusted equipment are common causes.
- Overuse or sudden increase in activity
Engaging in activities that involve repetitive motions without proper rest or gradually increasing their intensity can lead to injuries.
Signs and symptoms
Signs symptoms may develop gradually or suddenly appear, and may include:
- Pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow.
- Numbness or a tingling sensation that may radiate down the forearm.
- Weakness or difficulty gripping objects.
- Pain that gets worse with certain movements.
- Stiffness or limited range of motion in the elbow or forearm.
Interesting related article: What’s the difference between a sign and a symptom?
Treatment of golfer’s elbow
Treatment mainly focuses on relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and promoting healing, and typically include:
- Rest and activity modification
To alleviate pain and allow the tendons to heal, it is important to rest the injured arm and avoid activities that can make symptoms worse. Ask your doctor or a therapist who specializes in sports whether your movements are wrong, and if so, how to correct them.
- Ice and heat therapy
Ice packs may help to relieve pain and reduce swelling in the affected area. The use of heat therapy, such as warm compresses or heat pads, can help to relax the muscles and improve blood flow.
- Pain medication
OTC medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- Physical therapy
Physical therapists may recommend specific stretches and exercises to increase flexibility, build forearm muscle strength, and accelerate the healing process. In the UK, Australia, Ireland, India, and New Zealand, people refer to these healthcare professionals as physiotherapists. In Canada, people use both terms – physiotherapists and physical therapists.
Wikipedia.org says the following regarding treatment with a physical therapist:
“Strengthening will slowly begin with isometrics and progresses to eccentric exercises helping to extend the range of motion back to where it once was. After the strengthening exercises, it is common for the subject to ice the area.”
- Elbow brace or strap
During activities, wearing an elbow strap or brace can offer support and decrease stress on injured tendons.
Golfer’s elbow can cause chronic pain, limited range of motion, and functional limitations in daily activities if untreated or if you continue performing the activity that caused the problem.
Can you lift weights with golfer’s elbow?
According to clevelandclinic.org: “While rehabilitating, try not to aggravate your injury with movements that involve engaging the muscles in your forearm. Golfer’s elbow exercises to avoid include: Heavy lifting, especially in a palm-up position. Repetitive pulling or lifting.”
Prevention of golfer’s elbow
These tips will help you reduce the risk of developing golfer’s elbow:
- Proper technique and form
When taking part in repetitive wrist and finger movements-requiring activities, make sure your use the right technique and form.
- Gradual progression
An activity’s intensity, duration, or frequency can be gradually increased to allow the body to adapt and lower the risk of injuries.
- Warm-up and stretching
Before engaging in activities, it is important to warm up and stretch.
- Strengthening exercises
The stronger your forearm muscles are, the lower your risk of injury will be. Ask a qualified personal trainer, physical therapist, or sports doctor what exercises you should do.
- Rest and recovery
Proper rest and recovery between activities is crucial to give the tendons time to heal and prevent overuse.