What is Golfer's Elbow?
Golfer's elbow is a common condition that causes pain on the inside of the elbow. It occurs when the tendon and muscles that bend the wrist and fingers become painful. This happens when the stresses and loads placed on the tendon, through various activities, have been more than the tendon has been able to cope with.
It does not just affect golfers, but anyone who does repeated activities with their hands, wrists or arms.
What are the symptoms?
- The pain can vary from being a niggle to a severe ache.
- The pain is offen located around the inside bony part of the elbow but may spread up and down the arm.
- Pain often occurs with activities such as;
- Shaking hands
- Lifting items such as a kettle and carrying shopping
- Twisting e.g. unscrewing lids and jars
- Straightening the elbow
- The elbow may feel stiffer after rest and/or be more painful when you first starting using it again.
- The pain may ease and then return later on.
- Sometimes you may feel weakness in the wrist or have a reduced grip strength.
What are the causes?
It is caused by any activity that places an increased demand on the tendon. The tendon cannot cope with this load. This may occur when we start doing an activity for longer than we are used to or when we take up a new activity.
It is linked to movements using the hands and wrists such as; repeated gripping, lifting and twisting.
Normally there is a good balance between the wear and repair processes when we use our tendons, however if this is disturbed and there is too much wear and not enough chance for repair we start to get pain.
It can also be due to doing too little exercise, as these muscles and tendons are then weaker and it is easier to exceed their current limits. Stronger tendons and muscles however, will be able to cope with a lot more load before their limit is met.
It may result from a trauma such as a direct blow to the elbow or a fall.
It is common in people aged 40-60 years old but can affect any age and in both men and women. People who smoke or who have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, depression and anxiety maybe more prone to developing this condition.
What can I do to help myself?
- Stay positive, although it is painful, it shouldn't cause any lasting damage and more than 80% of people with golfer's elbow recover with simple exercises and time.
- Be realistic- it may take several months to resolve. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes. However, the following advice will give you the best chance of speeding up your recovery.
- Relative rest - reduce or stop activities that significantly increase your pain.
- Adjust activities to see if this helps reduce your pain. Such as; adjusting your grip, the weight of what you carry or the position of your hand and wrist.
- Try lifting and carrying things with your palm facing down towards the ground and with a bend in your elbow
- Use pain killers. It is reconmended to try regular paracetamol and anti-inflammatory gels in the first instance. If you are not sure if these are safe for you to use then speak to your local pharmacist or GP.
- Some people find placing a support, known as an epiclasp, around the elbow helpful
- Start some strengthening exercises. You could try some of the suggestions below;
- Self refer to see a physiotherapist, if you are still struggling after following the above advice.
What will physiotherapy do?
A physiotherapist will take a thorough history of your symptoms and will conduct a physical examination of the area to confirm the diagnosis. The main aim of physiotherapy is to restore strength and function to the elbow and surrounding muscles. Treatment will be based on active rehabilitation, focusing on strength and flexibilty. Your physiotherapist will create an individual and progressive exercise programme to address your needs.
Acupuncture, electrotherapy and massage have not been shown to be helpful for golfer's elbows and are therefore not offered.
Current research is suggesting that steroid injections for golfer's elbow may cause worse outcomes in the medium to long term, increasing the chances of it returning. It is important to discuss all the options with your GP or physiotherapist. Due to the current coronavirus pandemic we will not be offering injections until further notice.
Symptoms to check
Click the plus sign to see a list of problems that could be a sign you may need to be checked urgently
Get advice from 111 now if your arm/elbow:
- hurts when you exercise but the pain goes away when you rest
- you are experiencing chest pain/tightness with your elbow pain
- is swollen and you have a very high temperature or feel hot and shivery
- is extremely painful and difficult to move
- the pain is severe and started after an injury or accident, like a fall
- you have pins and needles or numbness that won’t go away
- has been injured and you heard a snapping noise or your arm has changed shape