We have heard of tennis elbow, but what is golfer's elbow? Golfer's elbow is a condition that impacts less than 1% of the population and often occurs between the ages of 40 and 60. The condition is called by the medical term: medial epicondylitis. In this blog post, we will review golfer's elbow cause & symptoms, and what natural treatments for golfer's elbow is out there that may help.
What is Golfer's Elbow?
Medial epicondylitis is a condition caused by repetitive motions, many people get this condition when they play golf. While associated with golf, the condition can impact anyone that engages in repetitive or strenuous movements.
The condition is often first noticed when a person experiences radiating pain that is in the inside of the elbow and can radiate to the entire arm.
While the condition is painful, the prognosis is often good.
Golfer's Elbow Cause
Tendons that attach to the inner elbow’s muscles become strained, causing pain. These tendons are responsible for your wrist movement and are strained with either hand or arm movement.
Symptoms can be caused by a variety of movements, including:
Your forearm muscles, when they’re not used often and then engaged a lot, can cause golfer's elbow pain. While long-term repetitive motions often cause the condition, short-term overuse can also cause golfer's elbow pain.
Overuse of the forearm is the most common golfer’s elbow cause, but a few things can lead up to the condition, too:
- Repetition: Many repetitive movements can cause excess strain on the inner tendons. A few of the most common careers that cause this pain include construction, carpentry, plumbing, and painting. Any time that forceful motion is repeated, especially when the forearm is in use, it can lead to this form of tendonitis.
- Certain Sports. While a sport isn’t the cause of golfer’s elbow, some sports will increase the risk of the condition. A sport that uses rackets is the most common culprit because of the force on the forearm when a ball hits it, or if the person has improper form, it can lead to excess strain on the inner elbow.
- Weight Training: Putting excess strain on the forearm when strength training can lead to golfer’s elbow. Typically, the person will perform a movement with improper technique, which leads to overuse of your muscles and tendons.
While men and women are both at equal risk of getting golfer’s elbow, there are some risk factors that can increase the chances of you suffering from this condition. People over 40 are at a higher risk as well as people that smoke, are obese, or individuals that perform repetitive motion for two or more hours per day.
As a form of tendonitis, the condition can get better if you follow basic care routines, including rest.
Pain and inflammation are the two most common symptoms of golfer’s elbow, but there’s more that you should know about.
Golfer's Elbow Symptoms
Symptoms may vary, but the most common symptoms are:
- Pain in the interior of the elbow or forearm
- Pain in the inside of the elbow or forearm when making a certain movement
- Elbow stiffness
- Tenderness and/or pain in the elbow
- Hand and/or wrist weakness
- Radiating pain that moves into the fingers
Symptoms are not serious, but the pain can persist for months.
Preventing Golfer’s Elbow from Occurring
If you’re already experiencing symptoms, there’s little that you can do to reverse course now. Anyone that believes that they’re at high risk of golfer’s elbow can follow preventative measures to help reduce their risks, including:
- Stretching your wrist and forearm before engaging in an activity
- Maintaining proper form when lifting by keeping the wrist rigid and reducing strain on the forearm
- Strengthening your forearm using light weights to help absorb the stress of certain movements
- Resting when you first experience pain to stop your condition from worsening
When you take the proper precautions, especially maintaining proper form when engaging in certain activities, you’ll be able to reduce your risk of golfer’s elbow.
Treatments for Golfer's Elbow
Since golfer’s elbow is rare compared to tennis elbow, there’s a lack of direct studies on the condition, according to the National Institutes of Health. Treatment options are similar to tennis elbow since the conditions are very similar.
In most cases, a person can expect a full recovery without having to undergo any special treatment options.
Patience and stopping or lowering the activity that is leading to the pain is key. Correcting form can also help. Once the pain has subsided, you’ll want to:
- Perform strengthening exercises for the forearm
- Stretch the forearm
Additional conventional forms of treatment may include acupuncture, shockwave therapy, and massage. Steroid injections may help with alleviating symptoms, but there is a risk that the steroids can slow the healing process. Painkillers may also be administered in the most severe cases, although it’s not necessary for most cases.
The ultimate form of treatment, at least in the initial stages of golfer’s elbow, is simply rest. Once you experience pain, allow the impacted arm to rest for a few days. You'll want to:
- Limit movements that engage the forearm
- Modify movements if necessary for work
- Elevate the elbow to prevent swelling
Along with rest, applying an ice pack to the inner elbow three or four times daily for 15 to 20 minutes at a time can help. You can also massage the inner elbow with ice for a period of five minutes, two to three times per day, as well.
Massage can assist with blood circulation to the area and alleviate pain.
A doctor may recommend wearing a counterforce brace that will reduce strain on the tendons and muscles in the forearm.
Curcumin, found in turmeric, has been linked to pain relief and accelerated tendon healing, according to one study from 2018. The study, conducted on mice, found that total tendon healing increased when turmeric was ingested.
Studies also show that curcumin may help alleviate pain.
Turmeric can be added to food, but supplement form will provide a larger dose that may be more beneficial for the symptoms you’re experiencing. You can also apply turmeric to the skin to reduce pain and swelling.
Willow bark has been used for centuries as a natural form of pain relief and is often referred to as “nature’s aspirin.” Multiple studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of willow bark to relieve pain.
Studies show that Willow Bark is a natural anti-inflammatory and can help stop inflammation.
CBD may target the symptoms of tendonitis, although there’s a lack of studies on the efficacy of CBD specifically for golfer’s elbow. One study, performed on patients that have a rheumatic disease, found that CBD oil was able to reduce pain and inflammation.
DMSO, made from wood pulp, is expected to promote healing, especially when it is used with other ingredients that DMSO helps to penetrate the skin. Dr. Weil suggests using a 70% solution up to three times daily on the area of the elbow where the pain is most prevalent.
There's also anecdotal evidence that a cream or gel containing aloe vera and DMSO relieves tendinitis pain.
Golfer’s elbow can be painful, but it’s a form of tendonitis that is treatable with a lot of rest, stretching, exercise, and the right natural treatment. If you’ve been diagnosed with golfer’s elbow, the prognosis is good as long as you work to correct the improper movement of the forearm or reduce the activities that are causing pain.