INJURY BLOG: MEDIAL EPICONDYLITIS (GOLFER’S ELBOW)

You may have heard of tennis elbow, but are you familiar with its counterpart, golfer’s elbow? Both are tendon injuries; the connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. So what’s the difference? This problem in the outer elbow is known as tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), while golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) is located in the inner elbow and forearm.

Read on to learn more about the causes and symptoms of golfer’s elbow, and how it is treated.

What causes golfer’s elbow?

Firstly, you don’t have to be an avid golfer to develop it! It’s an overuse injury caused by any repetitive movement of the wrist, hand and forearm.

Besides overdoing it on the golf course, what are the types of activities that may cause golfer’s elbow?

  • Racket sports like tennis or squash – gripping a racket that is too heavy or too light. Make sure you check your technique as well.
  • Weight training with poor technique causes you to overwork the tendons and muscles of the arms.
  • Ball sports: repeatedly throwing a ball in sports such as bowling, softball and baseball.
  • Manual labour: painting, plumbing, and construction work that involves forceful and repetitive movements cause golfer’s elbow. Doing repetitive work using tools like hammers or screwdrivers may also cause it.
  • Computer work: frequently typing on a keyboard and using a mouse with a poor ergonomic set up.

What are the symptoms of golfer’s elbow?

There are some common symptoms you may experience if you have golfer’s elbow. It’s worth noting that the pain develops over weeks or months, often starting out as pain in the inner elbow.

You might experience pain and tenderness that radiates from the inside of the elbow down the forearm. Your elbow may be stiff or difficult to move. Although rare, there may be numbness or tingling in your fingers, or weakness in the hand and wrist also.

How is golfer’s elbow treated?

Most of the time this condition is managed at home, following simple steps used to treat tendon injuries:

Rest your arm: this one’s important! You need to give the tendon a break for a few days so that it has a chance to heal. Avoid any activity that makes the pain worse. You can gradually re-introduce these activities once the pain is under control.

Apply ice: in the initial stages of injury, ice can help to control pain. For the first few days, apply to your elbow and forearm for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times a day. Contrary to popular belief, you want to limit ice application because the cold temperature can inhibit the natural inflammatory process the body goes through when a new injury develops. We want to allow the body to do its thing, so use ice sparingly and only early on.

How can I prevent golfer’s elbow?

  • Take regular breaks from repetitive exercises.
  • Stop any activity that causes elbow or forearm pain.
  • Learn proper techniques for exercise and sport to avoid putting extra stress on your wrists and elbows.
  • Warm up properly before you begin exercise or sports.
  • Increase your arm strength.

How can osteopathic treatment help?

Your osteopath can help you to recover from golfer’s elbow. They may use soft tissue techniques such as massage and stretching to reduce muscular tension and increase blood flow to the tendon.

They will also help you to prevent the injury from reoccurring by conducting an assessment and diagnosing the root cause. Don’t be surprised if your osteo treats your neck, mid-back and shoulder to help with this issue. These areas often need attention too!

We’ll put together a treatment plan with you to see you gradually return to your former glory. Tendon injuries like these need an approach that focusses on strength and mobility and ultimately, time.

If you are experiencing elbow pain, we are here to help! Don’t let golfer’s elbow impact your handicap. Give us a call on 9078 2455 to make an appointment.

References:

1. Higuera, V. (2018). Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow). [Online]. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/medial-epicondylitis (Accessed 19 February 2022).

2. NHS. (2020). Tendonitis. [Online]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tendonitis/ (Accessed 19 February 2022).

3. WebMD (2021). Golfer’s Elbow. [Online]. Available at:  https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/golfers-elbow-basics (Accessed 19 February 2022).