Golfer’s elbow is a minor injury that involves the inside of the medial epicondyle. The injury is treatable and most of the time does not involve invasive surgery. Recovery is quick if acted on soon.
What Is Golfer’s Elbow?
The term “golfer’s elbow” sounds a lot worse than what it actually is. Recovery time is minimal but you might have to sacrifice a couple rounds of golf with the buddies. If you try to push through the pain, your elbow will continue to injure itself which may require invasive surgery.
The medical term for golfer’s elbow is medial epicondylitis. Don’t confuse this with lateral epicondylitis. Also called tennis elbow. Both have similar traits but golfer’s elbow impacts “the tendons of your forearm muscles that attach to the bony bump on the inside of your elbow (Source: Mayo Clinic)”. Tennis elbow impacts the outside of your elbow. Either way, the pain is not comfortable, and it can lead to a decrease in performance in any sport you play.
If you take the necessary treatments ahead of time, you will be able to preserve your elbow for any future rounds of golf.
Which Part Of The Elbow Is Being Impacted?
As I mentioned earlier, golfer’s elbow impacts the medial epicondyle which is the inside tendon of your elbow. This tendon runs from the bottom of your hand to the bony part of your elbow called the humerus. There really isn’t anything funny when you hit this bone on something though. The pain is unbearable.
Golfer’s elbow is caused by the overuse of the medial epicondyle tendon. This area becomes a little inflamed and tender. Continuing to play on the golf course will put more strain on this tendon which can cause permanent damage. Shortly I will outline proper treatment and what you can do to prevent this injury in the future.
According to Medscape, some other activities that heavily use the medial epicondyle are “throwing sports, bowling, archery, weight lifting, and baseball”. This injury is not isolated to just golfers. Anyone over utilizing this tendon can be prone to medial epicondylitis.
Who Is Most Prone To This Injury?
If you are playing a sport that relies heavily on this tendon then you are prone to this injury. The age range where there is a much higher risk for golfer’s elbow is 40 and above. This range is when the body begins to lose its strength and the tendons in the body begin to deteriorate. With proper exercises, you can avoid this common injury and continue to play golf till you’re 100 years old.
The average range for golfer’s elbow is 19 to 40. In this age range it is common to see some of these injuries but not like how it is when you pass the 40 year old threshold. The younger golfers are still growing and their bodies are getting used to their newly developed swings. If you are taking the proper exercise procedures and being proactive you may never have to make a doctors appointment to look at your arm.
Symptoms Of Golfer’s Elbow
This injury can be a tricky one to diagnose. The pain can come on suddenly or it may take a couple of weeks to develop fully. It all depends on your playing frequency and how much damage you are doing during your swing. Your symptoms may be minor or severe depending on the injury. Here are some of the most common symptoms of golfer’s elbow you can look for.
As I mentioned earlier, the pain of golfer’s elbow can come on gradually or suddenly depending on the severity. Each person’s body is different so the pain can vary from elbow to elbow. If you notice a lot of pain in your elbow while doing these activities it could be time to consult a doctor for further diagnosis.
When Should You See A Doctor?
This always seems to be a common question when it comes to golfer’s elbow symptoms. Unfortunately there isn’t any definitive answer for this question. If the pain is unbearable or you find it hard to function during the day then I would suggest consulting a doctor. Also if you notice these other traits of golfer’s elbow set up an appointment.
If you are having a difficult time doing your day-to-day activities or the pain becomes unbearable you should consult your doctor for a diagnosis. It is better to nip this problem in the butt now, so it doesn’t get worse and then surgery is required. Surgery will have a longer recovery time for something that could be prevented a couple months ago. Save yourself the headache and go see a doctor.
What Causes Golfer’s Elbow?
The most common cause for medial epicondylitis is repeated stress to the tendon that connects the hand to the elbow via the medial epicondyle. To put it into an easier term. You get golfer’s elbow when you put repeated stress on the tendon that connects your hand to the elbow. This tendon controls everything from your fingers to your wrist movements.
There are many factors that can contribute to golfer’s elbow. Most of the time it is because you are doing a motion incorrectly or putting a lot of strain on this tendon. Not warming up before a sport or improper movements will really strain this part of your body.
For golf it is very similar. Swinging a club incorrectly or taking a really powerful swing at the ball can really strain this tendon in your arm. Surprisingly, gripping the golf club incorrectly can also give you a bad case of golfer’s elbow. These incorrect mechanics can really take a toll on your body in the long run. Since this tendon is connected to your hands, an incorrect grip will throw your fluidity out of line and add that to a bad swinging motion, this can be a recipe for disaster.
With proper exercise and better mechanics you can defeat golfer’s elbow in its tracks. Luckily this injury is preventable with the proper training.
Risk Factors & Complications
Golfer’s elbow can happen to anyone. It usually doesn’t matter if you are young or old. This injury can impact anyone. You can be at a higher risk for golfer’s elbow if you are:
40 years old or higher
Performing repetitive activities incorrectly for more than three times a day
Overweight and putting a lot of strain on your body
Minimizing some of these factors above can make it almost impossible to get golfer’s elbow in the future. There are a couple complications that can happen if you leave this injury untreated. Treatment is usually simple and the injury can be resolved within a week. If left untreated though:
You will have chronic pain and inflammation in your elbow. Easy tasks will become a challenge and any movement in your arm will be decreased dramatically.
Common motions done with your arm will become limited. Your range of motion will decrease and it will be a lot harder to perform tasks.
Your elbow will begin to deform and bend around the injury. This is definitely not good when this starts to happen. This will require corrective surgery and be a lot more expensive.
Diagnosis for golfer’s elbow is a lot easier than it might seem. All it involves is setting up an appointment with your primary care doctor. The doctor will perform a routine physical exam and apply pressure to your elbow. With pressure applied the doctor will ask you to make some routine movements to see if anything hurts. This will give the doctor a good indication whether there is something wrong or not.
On some rare occasions the doctor may perform an x-ray to rule out any fractures or broken bones. On very rare occasions the doctor may request a MRI if nothing is found with the physical or x-ray. 95% of the time, the physical exam will be able to diagnose golfer’s elbow.
How Should You Prepare For Your Appointment
I would suggest going to see your primary care physician first. I would avoid specialists or urgent care doctors until you were able to sit down with your primary care doctor. Your primary care may be able to fix the issue on the first visit. It may be something simple like taking Tylenol and icing your arm for the first week. If you do make an appointment here are some things you should write down to better help the doctor in their diagnosis.
You should never be nervous to ask your doctor some questions. That will give you a better understanding of the injury as well as how to avoid the problem in the future. A patient should never feel anxious or pressured when they are at the doctor.
What Will Your Doctor Do In The Appointment?
For a normal appointment your doctor will perform a routine physical to rule out anything major happening. They will take your vital signs as well as ask you a couple questions to pinpoint the pain in your elbow. Luckily you will already have some questions written down to speed up the diagnosis process. Some other possible questions the doctor may ask you are as follows.
The evaluation process is usually harmless and just involves a lot of questions to get a good grasp on the whole situation.
Treatment & Expected Rehab
The treatment for golfer’s elbow is going to be less intense and may just require some simple treatment options to relieve the elbow pain. Starting treatment early is better than waiting a couple months to get it looked at. The longer you wait, the longer the tendon is going to be inflamed. You will end up doing more damage than what is expected. If you start early you will be back to playing golf or any other sport in no time. It’s just about taking it easy for a week or two. Below are some treatment options that may be prescribed by your doctor.
I would have to say that most people recover by resting, icing the area, and taking an over the counter pain medication. I can personally say that I have experienced golfer’s elbow in the past and those three things worked wonders. It just takes some good rest to get everything back to normal. If you have any questions or concerns about these treatments I would suggest talking to your doctor more. It never hurts to ask.
Preventing medial epicondylitis is simple and just takes a couple minutes before a round of golf to get yourself situated. Making the muscles and tendons stronger with exercise and stretches is the easiest way to prevent this injury.
Some other prevention options are:
Exercises To Strengthen Your Elbow
Exercising the elbow will increase its strength and lower your chances of getting an injury. Performing both stretching & strengthening exercises is your best approach. The following is for information purposes and all exercises should be consulted with a doctor.
Stretching exercises should only be performed when the pain is no longer present. Stretching an injured tendon can cause a little bit of harm to it. So when your arm is pain free. That is when you should begin stretching exercises. Some common stretching exercises for your elbow and arm are below.
You should begin strengthening exercises after you do a couple sets of stretching exercises. The strengthening process can be harmful to the arm if done incorrectly. Always consult your doctor for proper exercising mechanics.
I think it is safe to say that a recovery from golfer’s elbow is possible. Treatment is minor and recovery only takes a couple of weeks. It all depends on how willing you are to rest the injured arm. Some people may have jobs that require them to use their arms more frequently. If that is the case then try to take it easy at work and stock up on the Tylenol.
A full recovery is highly achievable. Most of the time you can stop the injury by stopping what you are doing that is causing you pain. The tenderness may even diminish within a day or two of stopping. If symptoms don’t clear up then you should go see a doctor. I am not a medical professional and your doctor will be able to give you a more in depth diagnosis then what I can give you.
Rest, ice, and OTC medications are going to be your bread and butter. If you put off treatment for a while the injury will get a lot worse and then surgery may be involved to correct the pain. Your recovery time may be tripled and the pain will be a lot worse. Save yourself the headaches and get it looked at ASAP.