We have all heard the saying, 'Golf is a good walked spoiled'. Of course if you are a fan of golf you would adamantly disagree. To turn that quote on its head, golfing with elbow pain will spoil an otherwise enjoyable game.
If you experience elbow joint pain when you swing your golf club, you may be suffering from golfer's elbow. This type of elbow pain comes from inflammation of the muscle tendons that are attached to the medial epicondyle of the elbow.
While the condition may be more noticeable in golfers, even people who have never played a game can suffer. The elbow joint pain generally develops as secondary to stress caused by strong grip pressure, grip like that required for rock climbing or throwing a ball in cricket or baseball. Manual labour can also be a cause.
Usually the elbow pain develops gradually and is made worse by flexion and pronation of the wrist. You may also feel pain over the inside region of your elbow joint, just over the bony prominence. Pushing against the soft tissue in that area may also cause pain. You may feel that your grip is weak and gripping may make the pain worse.
The cause of the tendonitis is not entirely clear, however it may be that microscopic damage to the tendon and muscles causes the tendon to become inflamed and in some cases, areas of calcification can occur. It is also thought that the chronic inflammation can lead to cell death, reducing muscle strength and flexibility.
Strategies such as implementing correct sporting techniques, warming up before playing, practicing regular stretching and avoiding excessive repetition may reduce the chances of developing elbow joint pain. For any new activity, gradually ease yourself in, allowing your muscles time to adjust.
Early treatments of elbow joint pain can include rest, the application of heat or ice and the application of a splint. Over the counter painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen may be helpful. Physiotherapy exercises may help to strengthen and stretch the damaged muscles, and to regain normal functioning.
If these measures are unsuccessful, injection of a steroid directly into the affected tendon and its bony insertion may be an option.
Some cases of golfer's elbow will not respond to the other treatment options and will instead require surgical intervention. If this is the case, the procedure may be done with either keyhole or open surgery. The surgeon will work to remove any damaged tissue in a procedure called debridement. Another surgical option is tendon release, where an incision is made along the tendon, scar tissue is removed and any bone spurs are taken off. Decompression of the ulnar nerve may also be required.
You can maximise the benefits of your surgery by adhering carefully to your physiotherapy and by exercising caution when participating in activities that involve your elbow.
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