Do you know that golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow do not only affect golfers and tennis players? In this issue on sports injuries, physiotherapist Gerda de Jong shares more on the prevention and treatment of these conditions.
What is Golfer’s Elbow?
Golfer’s elbow is an injury occurring on the inside of the elbow joint. Pain is felt on the inside of the elbow and may extend on the inside of the forearm until the wrist. It occurs when the wrist flexion muscles (the muscles that pull your hand down) are overused, or when you use the wrong techniques when playing sports. Certain professions, such as carpenters or plumbers, are also susceptible to this condition.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow occurs when there is overuse or repetitive stress and injury to the extensors, which are muscles that move the wrist backwards. People with tennis elbow feel pain on the outside of their elbow, and can extend to their forearm. It may be worse when they are grasping an object, lifting an object or bending the wrist or elbow. Like golfer’s elbow, people in professions like painters or butchers can get this injury. Even golfers are at risk of this injury!
Treatment and Prevention
Golfers, swimmers and tennis players must learn the correct techniques for their sport. Computer users and contractors should also take care to avoid overusing their wrists and forearm muscles.
Initial treatment for these conditions includes applying an ice pack to the elbow thrice daily for up to 20 minutes each time to help reduce inflammation and pain. Applying a compression bandage and raising the arm will help minimise swelling. You should continue to move your arm and do your daily activities, but take care to avoid the activities that aggravate your symptoms like heavy lifting. Throughout the day take regular breaks from activities and allow your elbow to rest.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or steroid injections, a splint/brace, or a tennis elbow strap. Your physiotherapist will teach you specific exercises to help stretch and strengthen your forearm and wrist muscles and improve your grip strength. Ultrasound may be used to help alleviate swelling and pain. Shoulder muscle exercises will be included to keep the entire arm strong. Surgery is usually a last resort.
With the help of your doctor and physiotherapist, try to find out the cause of the condition in the first place so that you can stop or correct the action, and prevent that golfer’s elbow, or tennis elbow, from happening again.
- Golfer’s Elbow, Physioworks
- The Management of Tennis Elbow, John Orchard and Alex Kountouris, BMJ, July 2011