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Golfer's Elbow Treatment

Medial epicondylitis, more commonly referred to as golfer’s elbow, refers to a painful condition that involves the tendons of the forearm muscles that are attached to the bony bump on the inner side of the elbow (medial epicondyle). In some cases, the pain spreads into the forearm and wrist.

When the pain develops on the outside of the elbow through a similar set of events, it is referred to as tennis elbow.

Other symptoms of golfer’s elbow include:

  • Pain and tenderness on the bony section inside the elbow – especially when you have a strong grip with the affected hand
  • Weakness in the wrist
  • Intense pain when bending/rotating the wrist inwards

The symptoms usually appear gradually, and can be easily dismissed as another uncomfortable niggle. With time, you begin to experience recurrent stiffness, and then it manifests as a painful injury that causes you to lose function of the arm.

People at higher risk of developing golfer’s elbow include:

  • Adults over 40 years
  • Obese individuals
  • Smokers
  • Those who perform repetitive activities for more than 2 hours every day

Causes of golfer’s elbow

The pain and inflammation is usually a result of overusing the arm in a sport like golf or volleyball, where you repeatedly bend the wrist (wrist flexion) against resistance. Activities that subject your wrist and fingers to excess or repeated stress, like through throwing, hitting, or improperly lifting, combined with poor conditioning or lack of adequate warm-up, can contribute to golfer’s elbow.

The primary activities that cause golfer’s elbow include:

  • Golf – gripping or swinging the club incorrectly will strain your arm tendons and muscles
  • Throwing sports or repeated throwing actions, like in javelin, archery, and football, as well as improper pitching technique in baseball and softball, can cause golfer’s elbow
  • Racket sports – creating excessive topspin, or using a racket that is either too small or too heavy can also injure your elbow
  • Resistance training; using the wrong technique to lift weights, especially curling the wrist during a forearm or biceps exercise, can overload the tendons and muscles in your elbows
  • Performing simple everyday activities that require you to repeatedly bend and straighten your elbow, like working at a computer workstation or performing a manual job such as hammering, painting, chopping wood, cooking, or raking, can also cause golfer’s elbow – if done for more than one hour a day, for many days

Treatment options

The first treatment for pain and inflammation on any body part is usually the application of ice. When suffering extreme pain, simply apply cold therapy and compression wrap for 10 to 15 minutes every hour. As the pain diminishes, you can reduce this to 3-4 times a day. But for a chronic injury that doesn’t seem to be healing, you may need to apply heat instead to stimulate blood flow.

Depending on the severity of your case of golfer’s elbow, you may also consider sports massage, a steroid injection, or ultrasound or laser treatment to reduce the pain and inflammation. Whatever option you choose, you should rest your arm adequately.

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