Having an injury that prevents you from following your passion is frustrating. Golfer’s elbow is no different than other repetitive sports injuries. The injury is treatable and preventable with actions you can do at home and on the course to minimize discomfort or re-injuring the elbow.
What is golfer’s elbow?
Medial Epicondylitis, also called golfer’s elbow, thrower’s elbow, or little league elbow is a repetitive movement injury. The injury starts inside with pain in the tendons of your forearm, where the muscles attach to the underside of your elbow. The pain progresses to radiating pain down your forearm to your wrist.
What causes golfer’s elbow?
Golfer’s elbow, as noted above, is a repetitive movement injury. Repetitive movement injuries are common amongst all types of athletes of all levels. As you practice the same movements over and over again, you can develop tears in the tendons. The development of golfer’s elbow means you may be pulling these tendons around the lower part of your arm near your elbow. If you are a frequent golf player, you may eventually experience this pain in your arm.
What exercises can you do to prevent golfer’s elbow?
Since golfer’s elbow can affect the muscles in your forearm to your wrist, you can start using a ball to increase the strength of your hand and wrist. You can use a tennis ball or a ball of similar size and flexibility. You place the ball in the palm of your hand with your thumb and fingers wrapped around it, as if you are going to throw it. Slowly and gently start squeezing the ball and holding for three to five seconds before releasing it. Repeat the exercise for at least ten times with the intent of doing several repetitions. You should try to manage three sets of ten in a row to help strengthen the muscles you grip your club with.
The exercise is easy to incorporate into your daily routine. You should not experience any pain or discomfort from doing this exercise. If you do experience pain, stop the workout routine, and consult your doctor if the pain persists.
A wrist extension may require you to buy a one-pound weight for the exercise. You will hold the weight in your hand with your forearm resting on a table over the edge. You can also do this in a chair with arms. Let your wrist hang down over the edge with the weight and slowly lift your wrist up and down as you would for a bicep curl except with your wrist.
Repeatedly lift your wrist with the weight doing at least ten to fifteen lifts at a time. Do up to three sets in a single sitting.
Isometric Wrist Strengthening
Isometric wrist strengthening is the stretching of muscles that hold and move your wrist. You should remain still throughout the exercise as you stretch the muscles to get the most out of it. You can sit for this exercise as well with your forearm down along the arm of a chair or on a tabletop.
Your hand should be flat, palm down, on the arm of a chair or a table. By using your other hand, you can start pressing your fingers into the top side of your wrist. Massage your hand and wrist as you gently resist it from lifting up and down.
Repeat the exercise, resisting the back of your hand and wrist at least ten times.
Finger extensions work the muscles around the base of your wrist. You will need a regular-sized rubber band for this exercise. Wrap the rubber band once around all five fingers and slowly open your hand, letting your fingers extend away from the others. The rubber band will provide resistance forcing your muscles to work to open.
Do at least ten repetitions of this exercise before allowing your fingers to rest.
Forearm Pronation And Supination
To begin the exercise, rest your forearm on a table or your knee for support. Hold a heavier object in your hand, so your palm is parallel to your body. Slowly start to rotate your hand until it is facing the floor. Then return to the starting position, all while controlling the movement of your hand until it once again is face up.
What are the symptoms of golfer’s elbow?
It is common to feel pain when you injure yourself; however, with typical cuts, scrapes, and bumps, there is visible evidence of the injury. Golfer’s elbow is not something you can see and if you have golfer’s elbow, you may experience the following symptoms.
Pain And Tenderness
You may feel pain around the inside of your elbow. Sometimes the pain may extend down your lower forearm. You may also feel pain with certain movements you perform in your daily life.
You might first feel the pain as a general discomfort, but it could develop into a full burning sensation deep in your elbow. As the injury gets worse, you will feel the discomfort down your entire arm and into your wrist.
After the initial pain, you may not notice anything but stiffness set in. The stiffness will come with trying to do general movements as well as sharper ones. You might notice that making a fist will hurt or doing something that requires fine motor skills that involve gripping. Activities like writing or even changing the channel on the television could be examples of this.
Lifting objects or other basic activities like moving things around your home may cause your elbow to feel weak. This weakness is a common symptom of golfer’s elbow; it starts in your elbow and can radiate down to your wrist.
Numbness Or Tingling
Numbness and tingling may occur as the golfer’s elbow progressively gets worse. You will feel it start radiating into your fingers. The pain is most often felt in the ring and pinky finger.
How do you treat golfer’s elbow?
There are many ways to heal repetitive movement injuries. Personal care and a couple adjustments to your lifestyle can promote healing. The first place you can start healing is in your home.
You will need to rest the injured arm. You should reduce the activities you do that may overuse your elbow and the effected wrist.
Suspending physical activity will give your elbow some time to rest and heal. You will be able to return to golf after an extended period of rest. If you cannot suspend an activity, may want to reach out to support or find a new way to do it.
Icing your injury is a good way to start immediate treatment. There is inflammation in the muscles of your arm, which is causing your pain. The ice will reduce any swelling you have and help it to feel better. You can ice multiple times a day. You will want to aim for at least ten minute periods of icing. Do not put the ice directly on your injury, as it can damage layers of your skin.
Once your elbow, wrist, or forearm stops swelling, you can start adding heat to promote new blood flow and relax the muscles in your arm.
Heat is an excellent way to treat an injury after the initial swelling has subsided. Your blood contains red blood cells, platelets, plasma, and white blood cells. All components in the blood are there to help synthesize proteins in your body to help knit the body’s tissues back together.
Taking a hot bath or shower can help you relax. Using a heating pad on the affected areas can help as well. Heat encourages new blood flow to the injury, which can speed the healing.
An elbow brace is a good option for anyone that cannot take time off to heal their injury. A good brace will reduce movement in your joints and remind you to not aggravate your injured elbow.
You will notice a difference in the pain after wearing a brace for a couple of hours. It can contain swelling and prevent your muscles from moving in ways that can hurt it.
Golfer’s elbow can cause you to find places around your home or work where you may overuse your elbow. You may want to adjust how you sit at your work desk, sleep, or even walk. Getting an ergonomic desk if you can to help keep your body stabilized could be an example of this.
Sometimes home treatments can only go so far. If your pain becomes unbearable, seeing a doctor is a good idea. Consult your doctor to find out more about how they can help with the following.
Talk with your doctor about the pain you are experiencing and what certain types of medications can help you manage it. They will generally recommend basic ibuprofen at a low dose to start and adjust from there. Most anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can help you reduce swelling and irritation.
Electrotherapy uses ultrasound or different types of laser treatments to stimulate the muscles for improved healing while reducing pain and inflammation.
Massages can encourage blood flow to damaged and injured tissue. It can help your body relax while promoting healing in the tendons that need stimulation. Massages can help to reduce strain in your hand, forearm, and elbow.
A steroid injection is a good way to fight against pain. The problem with steroid injections is that it may only treat the symptoms for a limited amount of time. If your pain disappears with the injection, and you do not adjust your daily life to support your elbow, it will come right back, requiring another injection.
Golfer’s Elbow Surgery
Surgery is the very last option for treatment. Golfer’s elbow surgery removes the frayed portion of your tendon. You will be under constant until your tendon heals properly. You should not return to golf immediately and this option could require many months of physical therapy. This will help strengthen the muscles back to where they were.