If you play a lot of golf, is golfer’s elbow inevitable or can it be prevented?
There was a time when golf was defined as a sport, but many people thought of it as more of a second-tier type of athletic competition. Perhaps that had to do with the pastel colors and plaids or maybe it was the focus on politeness instead of aggression. But times change and with them, attitudes. Today, the superstars of all other types of sports spend as much of their off-seasons on the golf course as they can: not as a means of relaxation, but as a way to stay challenged, physically and mentally.
Yes, golf really is a sport, but a better way to describe it would be that it is mostly a passion. Understanding that goes a long way toward explaining the amount of time golfers spend practicing the elements of their play. Golf is actually quite complex and demands a lot of time and effort to become even marginally proficient. In order to get better and to maintain consistently good performance, the swing of the golf club has to be mastered. Each movement is practiced over and over until it is done the same way every time.
Setting up a class at the local driving range would be the perfect place to teach healthcare workers about repetitive movement injuries. Damage can be done in the wrists, lower back, shoulders and knees, but one of the most common repetitive motion injuries for golfers is medial epicondylitis, better known as golfer’s elbow. The ongoing repetitions of the same movements eventually leads to small tears in the tendons running down the forearm. As these tears grow in size and number, the area around the elbow on the inside of the arm becomes sore and painful.
Risk Factors for Developing Golfer’s Elbow
Anyone can sustain a repetitive motion injury if they repeat the same movement over and over. However, there are factors that can increase the likelihood of this happening, such as:
- Age – those over 40 are more susceptible
- Overweight – obesity adds to the stress on all parts of the body
- Smoking – adding to all of the other reasons for avoiding smoking is the fact that it may interfere with circulation to the tendons, causing them to become weaker and heal more slowly
Steps to Decrease the Chances of Developing Golfer’s Elbow
- Stretching – warming up muscles before any type of activity is helpful and should be done before a game or practice
- Strengthening exercises – lifting light weights or other forms of exercise can balance out the effects of stress placed on the muscles and tendon and reduce the likelihood of injury
- Monitor form – an instructor or golf pro can offer advice to avoid injury by using proper form
- Equipment – upgrading to lighter clubs and getting them custom fit can have a big impact not only in performance but also in reducing the potential for injury
- Adequate rest – taking a break, resting and pacing can go a long way in preventing golfer’s elbow.
- Focusing less on grip strength and more on arm swing with more passive hands
These last suggestions may be the most important point of all and the hardest to implement. This brings us back to our point about golf being a passion. Obsession might be a more accurate term, if somewhat harsh. Whatever we call it, consistently spending too much time at something like golf is a prescription for injury. Rest will be a recommendation for healing if golfer’s elbow develops, but resting before the injury occurs might be enough to make that healing unnecessary.
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our physicians are committed to more than just treating your symptoms. We strongly believe that each individual is best served through an integrative treatment plan. We focus on finding the underlying cause and providing non-surgical, evidenced-based solutions tailored to your specific condition and needs. If you are experiencing forearm pain or have questions about golfer’s elbow or any of our treatment methods or services, we invite you to schedule a consultation by using our convenient online form by clicking here.