Golfer's elbow (or medial epicondylitis) is a form of tendonitis, or inflammation of a tendon. Golfer's elbow specifically involves the tendons that attach your forearm muscles to the bony knob on the inside of your elbow.
Golfer's elbow is one of the most common golf-related injuries, but it isn't limited to golfers. People who participate in throwing sports or repeatedly use the same arm motions and finger clenching are at risk as well. Golfer's elbow is commonly confused with tennis elbow when the pain occurs on the outside of the elbow.
Golfer's elbow can be disruptive, but with the proper care, you should be back on the course in no time.
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The classic symptoms of golfer's elbow are pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow, especially with motion. Other symptoms include mild swelling, joint stiffness, and numbness or tingling below the elbow. Tightness or weakness in the forearms, which makes it hard to make a fist or clench your fingers, is also a sign of golfer's elbow. The pain may come on gradually or appear suddenly.
It’s best to talk to your doctor if your symptoms do not improve with ice, rest, or over-the-counter pain medication. If you think you may have broken a bone, you can't bend your elbow, it does not look normal, or it is hot to the touch, consult your doctor immediately.
The leading cause of any type of tendonitis is repetitive motion or overuse. This stresses the forearm muscles and tendons repeatedly, causing wear and tear over time. As you age, your tendons slowly weaken and become less flexible. This makes them more susceptible to injury.
In golfer's elbow, the repetitive wrist movements and finger clenching of golf is the main factor. Similar movements in throwing sports and other activities can cause it as well. Outside of sports, occupations with repetitive motions, especially those that require force, such as plumbing or carpentry, also increase risk of golfer's elbow.
Poor conditioning or skipping your warm-up may also cause golfer's elbow because you are not giving your muscles and tendons appropriate time to perform under stress.
People who participate in activities with repetitive wrist and arm motion for more than an hour a day, many days a week are at risk for golfer's elbow. If you are obese, smoke, or are over age 40, you are at a higher risk. Having multiple risk factors makes you more susceptible to golfer's elbow.
There are steps that you can take to prevent golfer's elbow. Many of these steps begin with having the proper form to avoid overloading your muscles when you're playing, lifting, or working. Using the right equipment for your body and sport will also help you to prevent injury. For example, if you currently use old golf irons, consider upgrading to a newer, lighter set.
It is essential to stretch and strengthen your muscles, especially your forearms, before beginning your activity. This does not need to be lengthy or challenging. Merely squeezing a tennis ball, using light weights, and making sure to walk or jog a few minutes before your workout will make all the difference.
Lastly, it is essential to rest. If you begin to feel pain, stop and take a break to allow your body to heal. When you start the activity again, ease in slowly to avoid re-injuring yourself and be sure to rest if it seems you jumped back in too soon.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.