Don’t let the name confuse you, golfer’s elbow can happen to anyone. Medically known as medial epicondylitis, this tendonitis condition is caused by inflammation, irritation, and even small tears in the tendon that connects the elbow to the wrist. The injury causes pain and swelling on the inside of the elbow. Luckily, for those with golfer’s elbow treatment options mostly consists of basic at-home remedies.
Similar to tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow is caused by an acute injury or from long-term overuse of the elbow. The continued strain and stress on the elbow causes injury that results in medial epicondylitis. One of the best treatments is to take time off of the activities that cause pain. This means putting down the golf club or tennis racquet--both are common causes of the injury. Restricting your activities will give your body time to heal so you can get back to them faster and healthier.
Cold therapy with an ice pack or another method is a great treatment option for golfer’s elbow. The cold will cause the blood vessels to narrow which will lessen swelling and inflammation. Along with less swelling, the cold will numb the skin and interrupt the pain signal to the brain--resulting in less pain. Use an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time. You’ll find the best relief when it’s used just before and after activities that irritate your elbow.
After you have used cold for 2 to 3 days then it’s time to introduce heat. You can use a heating pad or warm towel wrapped around your elbow. The warmth will encourage blood flow to the area, and loosen tight muscles. If your elbow or arm is swollen or bruised stay away from heat until that dies down. The warmth will only make it worse. Place the heat source on your elbow for 20 to 30 minutes at a time to find the greatest benefit.
Pain relief creams are another noninvasive option that can alleviate golfer’s elbow symptoms. These creams are rubbed into the skin over the affected area. There are three common types of pain creams on the market. Counterirritants are use ingredients that cause a cooling or burning sensation to provide relief. Salicylates use aspirin as their main ingredient. And capsaicin, an ingredient in chili peppers. For golfer’s elbow, we’d recommend a counterirritant or salicylate.
Golfer’s elbow is caused by irritation and swelling in the tendons and muscles on the inside of the forearm. Gentle massage over the forearm muscles can loosen any tightness that has developed from the condition and encourage blood flow and healing. Start slowly near your wrist, using gentle strokes, move toward your elbow. Stop if you experience severe pain.
A compression sleeve is a tight, yet stretchy, sleeve worn over your upper arm, elbow, and forearm that provides uniform compression. The pressure it places on your arm will reduce swelling and support your elbow. In golfer’s elbow, compression sleeves are useful when you need to do activities that will aggravate your elbow or if you are having moderate swelling. The tightness might be hard to get used to but it’s what will keep swelling down.
An elbow brace will give your elbow a little extra support as it heals from tendonitis. There are several types of golfer’s elbow braces to choose from. An elbow brace that covers part of your forearm and upper arm that adjusts to the compression level you need will provide the greatest support, similar to a splint. Another popular option is an elbow strap, these braces are positioned just below the elbow and compress where the tendon inserts into the elbow. This can alleviate some of the pain from the golfer's elbow and also support the tendon during activity.
Routine stretching and exercise can both treat and prevent golfer’s elbow. Wait to start your stretching and exercise routine until you’ve given your elbow some time to heal. The best bet is to get cleared by your doctor before you begin. Stretching is aimed at loosening tight muscles and tendons while also maintaining your range of motion. Strengthening exercises work to build muscle in the forearm and upper arm. This will protect the elbow joint, reducing the chance of injury or re-injury.
A physical therapist is professionally trained to treat joint injuries like golfer’s elbow. They will start off by evaluating your injury to determine the best treatment plan that will include stretching, exercise, ultrasound, and manual therapy. Along with physical treatment, your therapist will provide education on how to adjust your movements and functional training to avoid further elbow injury and get back to your golf swing.
The pain from golfer’s elbow can make sleeping a challenge. Avoid sleeping on your side of the affected elbow. If you sleep on your back, prop your elbow and arm up onto a pillow. This elevation will help reduce swelling as you sleep. You may need to invest in a brace to keep your elbow immobile as you sleep. This will prevent any unintentional strain on the joint.
Golfer’s elbow is typically caused by repetitive movements. If you work in a factory, are a plumber or painter your job puts you at risk due to the constant motions you make. Integrate new ways to do your job—use a wider grip on your paintbrush, change the angle you approach your project, and talk to your company about alternatives to change up your movements.
Regardless if it’s your job or a hobby that is causing your pain it’s crucial that you maintain proper posture throughout your day. When you move with poor posture you are increasing stress and strain on your tendons.
If you are looking for a golfer’s elbow treatment that doesn’t use medication and allows you to have almost your full range of motion then kinesiology tape may be the answer. Kinesiology tape is applied over the elbow and arm to provide a small amount of joint support. The tape creates a small amount of pull on the skin to improve lymphatic circulation to improve healing time. Users also find that the tape increases their proprioception (body awareness) to minimize continued elbow injury.
Over-the-counter pain relievers are another good treatment option for golfer’s elbow. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen both minimize pain and inflammation. This dual effect is the best combination for tendinitis. Another OTC pain reliever is acetaminophen (Tylenol). This medication offers some pain relief but doesn’t have the same anti-inflammatory properties as an NSAID. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you start a new medication to avoid any unintended side effects.
When conservative treatment hasn’t alleviated your pain then it may be time to consider surgery. Your surgeon will carefully review with you the benefits and risks of surgery. Surgery will likely consist of a small incision on the inside of the elbow to repair the damaged or torn tendons. Recovery time from the surgery will vary based upon the severity of the injury.
Before surgery, some doctors will recommend a cortisone injection to alleviate the pain. The injection contains a powerful corticosteroid that reduces inflammation. The lasting effects of the injection will be dependant upon the patient with some patients needed several injections to find relief.
Golfer’s elbow is a painful condition caused by wear and tear of the tendons in the elbow. Sufferers feel pain on the inside of the elbow, which worsens when they flex their wrist. Treatment begins with rest, ice, and compression. Many people also find relief through medication, exercise, and stretching. If that doesn’t work then surgery may be necessary. If you suspect that your pain is golfer’s elbow reach out to your doctor for medical advice and then determine the best treatment plan to get you back to all the activities you enjoy.
Sources:SHOP Golfer's Elbow
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