Written By Mike Pedersen
Golf Fitness Trainer
Founder of Power Golf Training Program
Elbow pain or even injury to a golfer is a killer...and will keep you off the course indefinitely!
With its Sunday name of medial epicondylitis, the one sure way to cure golfer's elbow is to stop playing golf completely. If that sounds a bit too extreme for you there are other cures for what is a painful condition, basically caused through overuse of the tendons and muscles in your forearm.
It occurs on the inside of your elbow, where the tendons attach the muscles to a bony bump called the medial epicondyle, hence its proper name. Although the bone itself gets very painful, it can spread into the lower arm and even your wrist.
Though it is normally associated with repeated use of the tendons, it can appear after a sudden hard bump, such as hitting a rock or a tree root while playing a full shot.
Your whole elbow can feel painful and stiff, and it could get worse if you swing something like a golf club or tennis racquet, or shake hands or involve yourself in any other activity that involves squeezing and hence movement of the tendons in the forearm.
It's not just brought on by golf, but by chopping wood, hammering nails, overuse of keyboards, and any other repetitive activity involving the forearm muscles and tendons. Tennis elbow is a similar condition.
The treatment is initially rest. You have to stop the activity that caused the problem, and stay off the course until it gets better. To help that time come sooner rather than later, you should put ice packs on the elbow for fifteen minutes a time, four times a day. This will ease the swelling and help reduce the pain. You can also use painkillers such as ibuprofen, Tylenol and aspirin. But the bottom line is to cure golfers elbow.
Recovery will be quicker if you take all loads off your elbow, and support it in a forearm strap with the elbow bent, but if the swelling and pain are bad, you may need cortisone injections. However, no more than three a year should be given and if there is still pain after that time then you might have to consider surgery.
Surgical treatment involves cleaning any diseased tissue from the tendon and shaving the bone down before reattaching the tendon. Up to 15% of cases find it necessary to have this kind of surgical treatment.
Once the pain has been alleviated, you can use strengthening and stretching exercises to prevent recurrence, and occupational therapy can help to speed up recovery. Golfer's elbow is not for life, but recovery is not quick. Like any repetitive strain injury, it takes time for the pain to dissipate, and then even more time for the tendons to heal sufficiently to start playing again.
There are proprietary treatments advertised online, and some might be worth trying if recovery is slow. No guarantees can be given on their effectiveness, and they are often advertised as "The cure the physiotherapists don't want you to know about".
Presumably, they don't want you to know about them because they are so effective that they would all be out of business. However, I don't believe that too many physios depend upon golfer's elbow for their income. They are there though, and perhaps better than waiting months for the pain to ease, because that's what it can take. You are basically taking a whole season off golf.
Once the pain has gone, however, you can take steps to prevent golfers elbow from recurring. First, improve your game so that you stop taking so many divots, and hitting tree roots and rocks. Then strengthen your muscles. Use simple strengthening exercises that any golf trainer can help you with, and do a few stretches before each round to warm your muscles up before subjecting them to the stresses of a golf swing.
It is not easy to cure/or prevent golfer's elbow, but it will come with patience, and better awareness of what causes it and when to stop that activity. You can use your time off watching some good golf training DVD like in our training system.
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Mike Pedersen is the creator of the "Power Golf Training Online Membership - What Every Golfer Should Know About How To Hit Longer Drives And Play Pain-Free Golf", and has taught thousands of golfers how to add up to 40 yards to their drives.