Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow
What is Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow?
Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow are a form of tendinopathy (degeneration of the tendon) caused by repetitive arm bending.
The result is inflammation of the tendons on either side of the elbow which affects the wrist extensor mechanics, muscles, tendons and attachment to bone.
A tendon is a thick fibrous band of tissues that attach muscles to bones. Think of them like an elastic band, in that they stretch when you move your joints to accommodate the movement. They also help to absorb some of the shocks from your muscles when they move.
Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) is inflammation of the tendons that connect the forearm muscle to the bony part on the inside of the elbow, causing pain inside the elbow that affects the wrist flexor muscle.
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is inflammation of the tendons that connect the forearm muscle to the outer bone of the elbow.
It often occurs when the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle (which helps extend the wrist and fingers) is damaged, usually through repetitive stress weakening the muscle and resulting in tiny tears in the tendon.
Tennis elbow is the most common overuse condition in the elbow.
What Causes Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow?
Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow aren’t necessarily related to golf or tennis (in fact, only 5% of people with tennis elbow get it from playing tennis).
The condition can occur from any activity where the arms are repeatedly used, such as baseball, squash, badminton, swimming, weightlifting, rowing, or throwing sports like javelin.
Your job can also be a factor if you work in a profession where you need to repeatedly use your elbow, like a carpenter, electrician, hairdresser, construction worker or mechanic – these jobs frequently require using handheld tools. As a result, everyday activities can become painful.
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing these tendinopathy conditions include:
- Repeated, long-term stress or strain on your elbow, whether recreational, like sports or playing a musical instrument, or occupational, such as gardening, doing housework, heavy lifting, or frequently using a computer (repetitive movements for more than two hours a day have been identified as a risk factor)
- Improper technique or training in sports, including insufficient stretching
- Inflexible muscles, or muscle imbalances
- Elbow joint misalignment
- Poor circulation
Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow are most common between the ages of 30 and 50 in both genders.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow?
Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow tends to mainly affect your dominant arm.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, appear suddenly, or develop slowly over time.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Pain that starts out as gradual irritation in and around the elbow
- Pain that flares up while playing a sport or working a job that requires frequent use of your arms
- Pain on either the inside or outside of your elbow that extends down into your forearm and into the wrist
- Pain when you try to bend your wrist
- Difficulty lifting or picking up objects without pain
- Weak grip, or difficulty and pain when shaking hands, squeezing an object, opening jars or doors, or using tools or cooking utensils
- Stiff elbow, causing reduced range of motion
The condition may become painful all the time, even if your elbow is resting.
If you have a tingling sensation or numbness in your fingers, especially your ring and little fingers, your therapist will want to rule out nerve compression within the radial nerve.
Concerned about symptoms of golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow? Book a physiotherapy assessment at your local pt Health clinic today.
How is Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow Treated?
Treatments for golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow can include:
- At-home treatment including:
- Applying ice packs
- Resting your elbow and/or wrist
- Avoiding activities that cause pain or put stress on your elbow and/or wrist
- Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as Advil or Aleve to reduce pain and swelling
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), either prescribed, or over-the-counter, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- Corticosteroid injections to alleviate inflammation
- Surgery – if surgery is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation
Physiotherapy for Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow
Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that focuses on reducing pain and swelling, regaining strength, increasing mobility and function, and preventing recurrence.
At pt Health, you’ll receive a thorough assessment which addresses the source of your problem.
Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy can include:
- Functional retraining and activity modification
- Stretching, strengthening and range of motion exercises
- Personalized exercise plan that can be done at home to encourage continuous improvement and progress
- Preventative strategies to help you manage lifestyle, work, and other risk factors
- Patient education, actively involving you in your own recovery, including return to work or sport recommendations
- Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as:
Can Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow Go Away On Their Own?
Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow may get better on its own with proper treatment following the RICE protocol.
The sooner you start treatment, the sooner you will recover.
However, because it is usually caused by using your elbow in a particular way every day, it can soon become chronic if not treated properly, including muscle strengthening and possible functional retraining and activity modification.
Physiotherapy treatment can relieve symptoms in as little as four to six weeks.
Can You Prevent Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow?
If you have an increased risk for golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow (you play sports or your job involves repetitive arm bending), speak to a physiotherapist about the best exercises for your activities.
Other steps you can take to prevent or reduce the chance of getting golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow include:
- Warming up and stretching before exercise
- Cooling down and stretching after exercise
- Practicing proper technique in sport including arm stretching and strengthening exercises
- Taking regular breaks from bending your arm
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet (avoiding processed and refined foods and sugar)
Book a Physiotherapist Consult for Golfer’s Elbow or Tennis Elbow Today
Concerned about symptoms of golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.