What is Golfers Elbow and can it be treated?
Golfers Elbow is felt as pain on the bony bump on the inside of the elbow and is similar to tennis elbow (pain which is felt on the outside of the elbow) but less common.
Of all tendon-related elbow pain, 9% to 20% is Golfers Elbow, or more accurately, medial epicondylalgia. But this pain is not only experienced by golfers!
The number of people who get Golfers Elbow is very similar between tennis, golf and occupational causes. This condition is seen most commonly in the dominant elbow of a golfer and in tennis players who hit their forehand with a heavy top spin. Chronic repetitive loading of the wrist flexors and rotators are the most common cause in occupations such as carpentry and plumbing.
What are the symptoms of Golfers Elbow?
Apart from the pain on the inside of the elbow, symptoms include elbow stiffness, swelling and wrist weakness. It is important to note that the neck and nerves can also refer pain to this area which your physiotherapist will need to exclude.
What are the causes?
Most commonly, tissue damage and not inflammation is the cause of Golfers elbow pain. This occurs on the inside of the elbow where the forearm flexor and wrist rotator join but, can radiate up and down the arm.
Many sufferers are not actually sportsmen and other risk factors for golfers elbow are type 2 diabetics, current and even former smokers. While it can occur at any age it is most commonly seen between the ages of 35 and 50.
Exercise-related risk factors for Golfers Elbow include:
- Training errors: This includes a rapid increase in intensity or duration of activity or a lack of warm up.
- Improper technique: Tennis players with excessive top spin, poor serves and forehand strokes are at greater risk.
- Equipment: The use of an incorrectly sized tennis racquet grip, overly tightened racquet strings, older tennis balls, and wet tennis balls may increase elbow stress. The use of graphite racquets and larger headed racquets can decrease elbow stress.
- Functional risk factors: Weakness, poor endurance, and poor flexibility of the forearm.
How is golfers elbow treated?
Physiotherapy has been shown to be effective in the short and long-term management of Golfer’s Elbow. It aims to reduce elbow pain, restore full joint range of motion and correct bio-mechanical abnormalities, such as muscle strength and flexibility. In the case where the nerves/neck are involved, treatment for those abnormalities is also addressed.
Physiotherapists will focus their treatment of Golfers Elbow on:
- soft tissue release of your neck and elbow joints,
- mobilisation of the elbow joint and nerves,
- stretching and strengthening and
- in some instances strapping or an elbow brace.
Golfers can generally get back to golf gradually, starting with their short game and gradually increasing the numbers of balls hit and improving their swing.
Should conservative management fail, an assessment by an orthopaedic surgeon would be needed.
If you feel you are experiencing similar symptoms to golf (or tennis) elbow, a call to your physiotherapist will provide answers, plus a referral if required. You can use the Lamberti Physiotherapy handy appointment form by clicking on this link.