Golfer’s elbow or thrower’s elbow is the layman term for Media epicondylitis, a condition commonly found among people actively playing golf. This condition has been found to be one of the major conditions keeping many people off the course and away from their favorite sports. Golfer’s elbow does not only affect golf players but also those people that perform different repetitive motions. Though golfer’s elbow is becoming more popular today, especially in men over the age of 35 years, there are a few ways you can effectively diagnose and treat it so it doesn’t keep you away from your favorite activity. In this post, we’re going to be covering what golfer’s elbow is, what causes people to have it, the symptoms and how you can diagnose, and how to get rid of golfer’s elbow.
What is Golfer’s Elbow?
Medial epicondylitis, commonly referred to as golfer’s elbow is a condition that develops as a result of the repetitive use of the elbow, wrist or the forearm which thus causes the tendons on the inside of the forearm to become inflamed or irritated and painful. Though the condition is often associated with the golf swing, there are also a few activities that could cause media epicondylitis, and these are activities that involve a twisting, gripping, or throwing action, such as chopping wood, throwing a football around, or using different types of hand tools. Any activities capable of continuously stressing the same forearm muscles could cause symptoms of golfer’s elbow, including working on a computer or doing certain repetitive tasks in the yard.
However, there are trained physical therapists today that can help bring the pain experienced from golfer’s elbow to the barest minimum and improve the strength, function, and motion of the affected elbow.
What Are The Main Causes of Golfer’s Elbow?
As earlier said, there could be several activities that can lead to golfer’s elbow, especially the ones that involve repetitive motion. Below are the major activities to watch out for:
- Golf: when you swing or grip clubs incorrectly or too forcefully, you have the tendency of causing a problem in your tendons and muscles.
- Sports that involve throwing: improper pitching technique in sports like baseball or softball is another thing causing golfer’s elbow. Sports like football, javelin throwing, and archery are also sports to watch out for where golfer’s elbow is more common.
- Racket sports: too much topspin can be bad for your elbow. Also when you use a racket that is either too heavy or too small can bring about an injury to that part of your arm.
- Weight training: adopting improper technique when lifting weights, such as curling the wrists while doing a biceps exercise, can cause an overload to the tendons and muscles.
- Activities that involve continuous straightening and bending of the elbow are also culprits. This type of activities includes hammering, painting, chopping wood, raking, using a computer, cooking, or doing assembly-line work (usually when done for a couple of days).
What Are the Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow?
The major symptom associated with medial epicondylitis is tenderness and pain in the elbow region of the arm. The pain, which usually starts at the medial epicondyle, also has the ability to gradually spread down the forearm. At times the pain can be made worse by some activities such as bending the wrist, grasping objects, or twisting the forearm down. Below are the main symptoms of golfer’s elbow:
- Pain on the inside of the elbow and could sometimes spread along the inner side of the forearm and may get worse with certain movements.
- Numbness or tingling sensation that radiates from the inside of the elbow into one or more fingers – usually the ring and the little fingers.
- Tenderness and swelling that occurs along the inside of the forearm.
- The elbow may sometimes feel stiff, therefore, making a fist becomes hurting.
- Weakness in the hand which often comes with an attempt to grip objects.
How is Golfer’s Elbow Diagnosed?
Diagnosis is generally done by your doctor or a physical therapist who may need to first take a detailed record of your medical history. You will be asked certain question about the pain you experience, how it affects you and your regular activities, and if you had has any injury in your elbow before. If at all possible, try to keep a journal of when the pain kicks in. Write down how long the pain lasted, what you were doing at the time, things like that.
You may need to go through a series of tests for your elbow. For example, your doctor or therapist will most likely try to position your wrist or arm in such a way that you feel a stretch in the forearm tendons and muscles. If there is a case of golfer’s elbow, this procedure will cause you some pain and that is often a great way to help your doctor diagnose golfer’s elbow. Your doctor may also need to take an X-ray of your elbow in order to help him detect the possibilities of other problems with the elbow joint.
How To Get Rid of Golfer’s Elbow?
There are a few non-surgical ways to treat golfer’s elbow, including taking anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to relieve inflammation, taking cortisone injection, or using shock wave therapy. However, hot and cold therapy is still considered the best treatment for golfer’s elbow when symptoms are still at the initial stage. Though cold therapy and hot therapy has proved to be effective in treating golfer’s elbow, each of the therapies has their own specific time of application. While cold therapy can be used at the initial time of injury, hot therapy can only be used after 3 to 4 days of injury.
When To Use Cold Therapy?
Cold or ice therapy is normally recommended when symptoms initially kick in. The great thing about ice is that it helps in constricting the blood vessels which has the effect of reducing the swelling and inflammation around the injured tissue. This type of therapy can also reduce muscle spasms which also helps in reducing the pain.
When we talk about ice or cold therapy, it involves placing a cold pack (which could be a bag of ice, frozen bag of peas, etc.) on the affected part for a 15-20 minute period. Keep in mind that it is always recommended to place a thin cloth in between the skin and the cold pack to prevent direct contact of the ice with the skin which may cause damage to the tissues. The ice must not be allowed to stay for too long because a prolonged exposure can also be bad. Stick to 15-20 minutes at a time.
Another option when using cold therapy is to combine it with compression. Mixing compression and cryotherapy ensures that the cold pack has proper contact with the skin which gives you deeper cold penetration.
When To Use Heat Therapy?
Unlike the ice therapy, heat therapy should not be applied to a fresh injury. Heat is known to work by opening the blood vessels and enhancing blood flow to the affected elbow joint which thus hastens healing and recovery. Heat therapy is used to provide relief to symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and buildup of fluid in the affected tissues. Notwithstanding, you should always bear in mind that heat therapy should not be used until 3-4 days after initial symptoms are observed and when there is no swelling.
When it comes to heat therapy, you can make use of various heat therapies such as heated wax, infrared heat, heat packs, hot tubs, heat rubs, or soaking the elbow in warm flowing water.
As we mentioned above, cold and heat therapy is considered to be the best treatment for golfer’s elbow as it helps to reduce the pain and inflammation, as well as other accompanying symptoms. However, it is extremely important that you consult your doctor or health care provider before starting any type of therapy. For example, people suffering with medical issues such as kidney disease, diabetes, nerve damage or poor circulation may have to avoid hot and cold therapy altogether. The best way to know for sure is to talk to your doctor!
Have you suffered or are currently suffering with Golfer’s Elbow? We’d love to hear from you. What kind of treatments work and don’t work for you? Just use the comment box below to let us know. Until next time.
Disclaimer: We are not medical practitioners here at Cold and Hot Therapy Shop. The information on How To Get Rid of Golfer’s Elbow mentioned in today’s article was for informational purposes only. You should always consult a doctor to get a proper diagnosis.