How do you know if you've got Golfer's Elbow? Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions? “What is this pain that I have on the inside of my elbow?” “Am I overswinging?” “Am I rotating my arm too much?” “Did I hit too far behind the ball on that last shot?”
These are all of the common questions that you can ask yourself while you are out on the links and might have symptoms of having “golfer’s elbow” also known as medial epicondylitis. While less common than lateral epicondylitis ("tennis elbow") it is still a common injury and can be very painful. But in order to understand how to fix this type of injury that occurs often with golfers it is good to know exactly what is happening with your anatomy.
The elbow is a hinge-type joint that is made up of 3 bones: the humerus (upper arm), radius and ulna. The radius is the bone of the forearm that runs from the elbow to the thumb side of the forearm.
The ulna is on the opposite side of the forearm and goes to the pinky. All of these bones have cartilage on the ends that should easily glide with movement.
With golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, the pain spreads from the inside of the elbow to the wrist. The majority of the discomfort will be felt in the flexor tendons of the forearm that attach to the inside of the elbow. Repetitive and overuse activities like the golf swing cause excessive pulling on the tendons on the elbow which leads to pain on the elbow joint itself. But even something as simple as using a mouse too long at work or doing some gardening can cause a possible golfer’s elbow.
Sometimes the pain can be related to inflammation of the elbow joint but more often than not it is a tendonosis. Orthopedists use the term often and it is a fancy way of saying that the cells inside of the tendons in the arm are creating scar tissue. The body reacts to pulling of tendons by laying down more scar tissue to help with tendons to become stable. But when the scar tissue continues to be strained and re-injured then no healing can take place. This overtime will cause more weakening of the elbow joint and even more pain.
The doctor will first conduct a proper consultation to ask relevant questions to the injury. Following the consultation a thorough examination will take place which will consist of range of motion of the elbow, wrist and shoulder if necessary. Palpation and orthopedic testing will follow to help determine the proper diagnosis along with possible neurological and muscular testing to rule out other possible conditions.
X-rays are typically not warranted for diagnosis of Golfer’s elbow unless trauma to the area has taken place. Only in the event that a fracture is suspected would radiographic images be medically necessary.
If you have Golfer's Elbow, what should you do about it? How do you get back in action in the shortest time possible?
The key component in allowing this condition to heal is rest. It is an overuse type of injury so it is important to refrain from the activity that caused it such as golf, heavy weights or sometimes even gardening. By minimizing the use of the elbow with the provoking motion there is less chance for further injury. If no rest is given to the area then sometimes ligament or tendon tears if severe enough will require surgical intervention. This will lead to an extended recovery for a problem that typically heals in a couple of months.
The first treatment that would take place would be a chiropractic manipulation of the elbow joint. More than likely the proximal ulna that connects to the humerus is not moving properly and would need to be given the proper motion to assure that the tendons that connect to the joint can relax. The wrist joint would be adjusted as well if necessary. Following the adjustment(s), electronic/muscle stimulation to the affected and cryotherapy will be done to help calm the area and reduce inflammation.
Kinesiotaping will be applied to help stabilize the elbow joint as well. Pulsed electromagnetic therapy, also known as PEMF, is an effective therapy that will aid the elbow joint to help the body itself to heal faster. Injuries like Golfer’s elbow will get better with time but the PEMF therapy energizes the cells inside the body, which make up all of our tissues like tendons and ligaments, to a higher energy level. This promotes the body’s ability to repair and heal quicker.
Along with corrective treatment there will be at-home exercises that can be performed to help to strengthen and stretch the muscles surrounding the elbow joint. It is important to know that these exercises will need to be done even after the pain has subsided because Golfer’s elbow can easily be reaggravated due to it being on overuse type injury. It is typically recommended to do the exercises daily in the initial stages then even once the pain has subsided it is best to perform the movements around three to four days per week.
There are also braces that can be used as aids to lessen the symptoms felt with Golfer’s elbow. A counterforce brace is thought to restrict the overuse of the muscles in the forearm that are associated with Golfer’s elbow but it is not a perfect solution. These muscles can still be overused so the best option is to wear the brace but still minimize the movements that provoked the pain in the first place.
The key to all of the treatment that is given to help this condition is consistency. It took time to acquire the injury so it will certainly take time to fix it. A treatment plan will be created in order to acquire optimal results and return to the activities that caused the injury in the first place.
Most general practitioners and orthopedists will recommend taking a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) medication as a front line treatment to help reduce the pain. This medication can be effective in the initial stages but the problem is that it does not correct the underlying issue. Getting a thorough examination and treatment to help heal the soft tissues associated with the injury is the best way to get rid of the problem. Merely depending on a medication to fix the problem is not a long-term solution.
Let CORE Chiropractic help you get back on track with personalized chiropractic care, stretching & exercise recommendations, PEMF therapy and a custom treatment plan. Call today for your consultation, or schedule an appointment online.