Do you love hitting the links or playing catch with your family? Both of these activities may contribute to a condition called 'golfer's elbow' or 'thrower's elbow,' where you experience pain caused by damage to the tendons on the inside of your elbow. Here, our Nepean physiotherapists explain how they can help with your golfer's elbow, including treatments to aid your recovery and how to prevent this condition in the future.
Variably called golfer's elbow, thrower's elbow, or medial epicondylitis, this condition develops when the tendons on the inside of your elbows become irritated and inflammed by repeated use.
Despite its name, this condition can be caused by repetitive motion as part of many more activities than just throwing a ball or swinging a golf club. Day-to-day activities like typing at your computer or performing yard work may be enough to cause this condition to begin to develop in your elbows, causing pain and discomfort.
What is golfer's elbow?
As mentioned above, golfer's elbow is a painful condition caused by the inflammation and damage to the tendons that run along your inner elbow (the side of your arm that folds inward when you bend it).
Tendons attach the tissues of your forearm, your elbow, and your upper arm together and, when you swing your elbow closed, allow for you to do so by engaging the muscles on either side of your elbow. Like many tendon injuries, golfer's elbow occurs when the tendon on the inside of your elbow become inflamed and damaged from repetitive strain over time.
By doing a motion like swinging a golf club of throwing a ball often, you are subjecting your tendons to repeated strain that may build up over time into a more serious injury that begins to cause weakness in the arm, discomfort and pain.
Without treatment, these forces can even cause the tendon to tear away from the bone!
Golfer's elbow common causes the following symptoms:
- Pain running along the forearm with any wrist, elbow or hand movements
- Tenderness and swelling along the inside of the forearm
- Weakness in the hand and forearm when gripping objects
- Stiffness in the elbow
What factors can contribute to golfer's elbow?
Since every person is different, every case of golfer's elbow will affect them differently. This may be influenced by the specific activity that has contributed to the development of golfer's elbow, including golf, throwing a ball, raking the yard, using a computer without proper consideration for ergonomics, and professionals such as plumbing may all put an individual at risk of developing golfer's elbow, and will all do so in slightly different ways.
Outside of the activities that causes you to develop golfer's elbow, the following are two of the most common contributing factors to developing this condition:
- Repetitive Motion - Tendons and other connective tissues will generally either break or sustain damage when they either are placed under a great deal of force or impact, or when they undergo the same small force or impact repeatedly over long periods of time, weakening them. The latter is more common, and because of this, people who play sports, work or participate in hobbies that require repetitive small strains on their elbows will be more likely to develop golfer's elbow.
- Muscle Tightness - The tendons affected by golfer's elbow are directly attached to the muscles on either side of your elbow, tightness in the surrounding muscles and joints, such as the shoulder, forearms or wrists, may all place greater strain on your elbows and contribute to you straining your tendons to the point where they become injured and cause pain.
What physiotherapy treatments are recommended for golfer's elbow?
As with many connective tissue injuries, manual therapy, hot and cold therapy, as well as physical supports such as braces are often a go-to treatment recommended by physiotherapists to start right away and help alleviate pain.
After these passive physiotherapy treatments have been enacted, generally a physical therapist will prescribe a number of exercises for a client who is suffering from golfer's elbow. These exercises will focus on increasing the strength and mobility of your elbow without causing your pain in addition to strengthening and relaxing the muscles that surround your elbow as well!
Since your arms works as a collective unit - with each muscle working with your tendons - to do actions like bending your elbow, it's important to make sure your injured elbow is properly supported and is able to heal.
Some of the most common physiotherapy exercises recommended for golfer's elbow include wrist mobility and strengthening exercises. Often golfer's elbow may have developed because your elbow is doing more work than it should to accommodate for loss of strength and mobility in your wrist. Because of this, focusing on strengthening your wrist's ability to support your elbow is a common tactic to encourage recovery from this injury.
How can physiotherapy help to prevent golfer's elbow?
Physiotherapy, while it can help your body to recover from injuries like golfer's elbow, actually excels at preventing injuries or painful conditions altogether.
A physical therapist can prescribe targeted exercises to provide ongoing support to areas of your body that may be injured (such as your elbow) and can also help you to practice activities ,like golfing with safe and proper form so that you aren't placing undue strain on your body in the first place.
Some of the most common ways that a physiotherapist may recommend that you prevent golfer's elbow include:
- Performing exercises that strengthen the muscles of your forearms
- Slowing your golf swing to allow your elbow to absorb less shock
- Using proper form in whatever activity you undertake to avoid overloading your muscles repeatedly
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your activity
Before undertaking any exercises while experiencing golfer's elbow, you should always consult a physiotherapist.
When suffering from a condition or injury, exercising the part of your body experiencing pain may just as easily make the injury worse as it could help to alleviate your pain and strengthen your body.
Are your experiencing pain and discomfort in your elbow from an injury like golfer's elbow?
Our team of physiotherapists are here to help you recover.
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