Everything You Need To Know About Golfer’s Elbow And How To Be Safe
Everything you need to know about golfer's elbow and how to be safe

By Malla Reddy Narayana on 20 May, 2022

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Golfer’s elbow is a disorder characterized by pain on the inside part of the elbow around the “funny bone.” The condition is also known as “medial epicondylitis.” The tendons that adhere to the bony hump on the inside of the elbow are damaged and irritated over time, resulting in golfer’s elbow. These tendons connect the muscles running down the forearm and connect to the wrist and fingers via another set of tendons, allowing one to bend and twist their wrist while gripping things like a golf club, or a hammer. The tendons in the elbow can be damaged by repetitive and strong grasping and twisting actions. During or after exertion, patients frequently suffer soreness or tenderness on the inside of the elbow.

In golfer’s elbow, It can become challenging to grip daily objects like a golf club or a tennis racket in some circumstances. The purpose of treatment is to determine and treat the underlying cause (typically overuse or poor technique), minimize discomfort and irritation, encourage healing, and strengthen the muscles and tendons in order to prevent it from occurring again.

The tennis elbow,  on the other hand, affects tendons present on the outside part of the elbow and is the polar opposite of golfer’s elbow.

What causes golfer’s elbow?

As we all know, the damage to the muscles and tendons that govern the wrist and fingers causes medial epicondylitis popularly known as golfer’s elbow. Excess or recurrent stress causes the injury, particularly with highly stress-inducing wrist and finger motions. Golfer’s also elbow can be caused by improper lifting, throwing, or hitting, as well as a lack of warmup or inadequate conditioning.

Golfer’s elbow can be caused by a variety of activities and vocations, including:

– Sports involving rackets: Tennis strokes performed incorrectly, particularly on the backhand, can result in tendon injury. Excessive topspin, as well as the use of a racket that is too tiny or heavy, can also result in damage.

– Sports involving throwing: Improper throwing techniques in sports like baseball, softball, etc are also a major causative factor. Active involvement in sports like archery and javelin throw can also lead to golfer’s elbow.

– Lifting weights incorrectly: like curling the dumbell with improper posture, can cause the elbow muscles and tendons to get overworked.

– Repetitive, forceful occupational movements: Construction, plumbing, and carpentry are examples of these. All these activities pose a problem when done for more than an hour over a prolonged period of time

What are the symptoms of golfer’s elbow?

The most prominent symptoms of golfer’s elbow are as follows

– On the inside of the elbow, around the bony bump, there is pain and tenderness. The discomfort may spread to the forearm. Pain may occur only after the action at first, but it may later start to interfere with ordinary daily activities. 

– During morning hours, there is a noticeable feeling of stiffness in the inner part of the elbow. This stiffness can also be observed after a period of inactivity, such as watching a movie. While the elbow is fully straightened, the stiffness is most noticeable, but it can also occur when the elbow is nearly bent.

– Grip weakness, is usually accompanied by pain.

– There wouldn’t be swelling unless there is a case of an acute injury

– Numbness and tingling sensation are also atypical symptoms of Golfer’s elbow and are not caused by it. The ulnar nerve (sometimes known as the “funny bone” nerve) runs close to the tendons and can cause irritation. The fingers may experience pain, numbness, or tingling as a result of this.

Methods of diagnosis

An orthopedic doctor assesses the symptoms, performs checks on the elbow and forearm, and analyzes if the indulgence in any sports or daily activities would have contributed to the problem to diagnose golfer’s elbow.

One will probably need more imaging tests to determine the extent of damage inflicted on the tissues present in the elbow and forearm.

The screening tests may include

–  CT scan

– MRI

– X-ray 

– Musculoskeletal ultrasound

Methods of treatment

As per doctors, non-surgical methods are given preference over surgical procedures, and surgery is only taken into consideration when the non-surgical means fail to provide relief.

The non-surgical means of treatment include

– Medication: Over-the-counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and other brands), naproxen sodium (Aleve), or acetaminophen are all effective in reducing pain due to golfer’s elbow.

Corticosteroid injections have not been proven to be useful over time, hence they are rarely used. Platelet-rich plasma is a recent treatment that is being tested in which a  little amount of blood is drawn and a mix of concentrated platelets and other anti-inflammatory substances are injected into the painful area. Further research needed to be done to determine the extent of efficiency of this method.

– Rest: Put off the love for playing sports involving repeated activities until the pain subsides. One may exacerbate their illness if they try to take part in activities too soon.

– Apply ice to the affected region: Application of ice packs to the elbow for a span of 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times a day helps in reducing the swelling in the region and also reduces the pain. Also giving ice massage to the inner part of the elbow, three to four times a day will go a long way in providing relief.

– Taking help of a brace:  Wearing a counterforce brace on the injured arm, as recommended by the doctor, may help to reduce tendon and muscle strain.

– Mild stretching: Exercising to stretch and strengthen the tendon goes a long way in boosting the healing process of golfer’s elbow.

The need for surgery is very rare as most people get well with just the use of pain relief medicines, ice packs, and proper rest. However here are the methods implied when the above treatment methods are not able to provide relief and it’s been over a year with no significant improvement.

– Tendon and ligament reconstruction: This process involves restructuring the worn-out tendons. This helps in improving the proper functioning of the elbow and reduces the pain

– Open tendon repair: This procedure is used when the tear on the tendon is large, which leads to a lot of damage to the soft tissues. This process allows the surgeon to perform multiple procedures in a single session

– TENEX: This is a relatively new minimally invasive technique that uses ultrasound to remove scar tissue. More study is needed on this procedure before it is available to the public.

Methods of prevention

Here are the steps one can take to reduce the risk of getting into the clutches of this disease

– Make the forearm muscles stronger. Squeeze a tennis ball or use modest weights. Simple exercises like these can aid in the absorption of the energy released by unexpected physical stress.

– Stretch before any exercise to warm up the muscles. One can also do walking or jogging for a few minutes. Then, before starting to play the sport, do some moderate stretches.

– Have proper posture to avoid muscle overload. In any sport, have an instructor review the form.

– Make use of the appropriate tools. Upgrade to lightweight golf clubs made of graphite rather than older ones made of iron. Make sure the tennis racket fits properly. 

– Take proper rest after doing any strenuous activity and don’t try to overstress the body

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