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Have you ever had ‘golfer’s elbow’? Golf is a very popular sport (for good reason) and millions of people in the UK play golf regularly.
Tendonitis of the elbow is such a common complaint among golfers that the condition is known as golfer’s elbow. It’s a painful injury which puts as many as 20% of regular golfers out of action temporarily, while they recover.
But what causes it, how can the symptoms be alleviated and what can you do to avoid it?
What causes golfer’s elbow?
Golfer’s elbow is caused by inflammation of the tendons on the inside of the arm. Damage to the tendons is a result of overusing the muscles in the forearm which allow you to grip, rotate your arm and flex your wrist1. Making repetitive movements increases the risk of inflammation, as it places more stress on the tendons. It is also more common among older people. In many cases, golfer’s elbow is the result of a technically improper swing.
Treating the symptoms
If you have developed golfer’s elbow, the main thing to do is rest. Giving the tendons a break, particularly from the swinging action which inflamed them in the first place, is the most important step on the road to recovery.
Resting the injured tendon allows it to heal and enables the inflammation to recede.
In many cases, all that is required is taking a regular dose of an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen.
It should take around four to six weeks to get rid of golfer’s elbow. After this time all pain and symptoms should have disappeared, allowing you to get back on the course.
If four to six weeks pass and you’re still experiencing symptoms, it’s time to seek help.
A specialist sports physiotherapist can help to boost recovery and help the tendons to heal faster.
Occasionally, a more serious case of golfer’s elbow will need further investigations to rule out potential underlying causes. Sometimes you might be recommended for specialist pain-relieving injections.
How to avoid golfer’s elbow
- Forearm exercises - Lift light weights or squeeze a tennis ball in your fist to increase the strength of the muscles in your forearm. With stronger arms, you’re placing less stress on the tendons in your arm whenever you swing
- Fix your form - Many cases of golfer’s elbow are caused by technical errors in your swing. If you’re concerned, ask an instructor to check your form and make sure you’re not overloading any muscles
- Warm up - Going for a walk or gentle jog before you play will warm up your muscles, and stretching will help to prevent injuries
- Get new clubs - If you’re using older golfing irons, you might want to consider upgrading to newer, lighter graphite clubs. They are easier to use and place less strain on your tendons and muscles when you swing
- Know when to rest - If you’ve had sporting injuries before, try listening to your body. Don’t overuse your elbow, and take a break at the first sign of pain.2
Due to the repetitive strain of swinging a club, golfers are also far more prone to various injuries, including in the wrist and back.
Specialist physiotherapy is available at our sports injuries clinics. Also, if you suffer with joint pain, please download guide full of advice on how to manage pain. If you're thinking about taking up a sport, take a look at why golf could be a great choice for you.
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