Golfer’s elbow is painful condition which is not just limited to golfers! Fortunately, this problem usually resolves naturally within a few weeks, but if you are out of action due to golfer’s elbow, you will want to get better as quickly as possible.
In this article, we look at golfer’s elbow in more detail from an eastern and western point of view, and discuss how acupuncture and massage therapy may help to speed up your recovery.
Golfer’s Elbow Symptoms
As the name suggests, golfer’s elbow is a painful condition of the elbow and forearm. It is also known as medial epicondylitis, meaning that it affects the inner arm. It is somewhat similar to tennis elbow, although tennis elbow affects the outer arm.
As well as pain and tenderness of the inner arm, other golfer’s elbow symptoms include:
• Stiffness in the elbow joint
• Weakness of the arm, wrist, or hand
• Numbness or tingling which may extend into the fingers
As we have already mentioned, golfer’s elbow is not only caused by golf. Let’s take a look what causes golfer’s elbow from a western and eastern point of view.
What Causes Golfer’s Elbow? A Western Perspective
From the perspective of western medicine, golfer’s elbow is a result of inflammation in the tendons connecting the muscles of the forearm to the elbow joint. When these tendons are overused, small tears can begin to form leading to pain, tenderness, and stiffness in the area.
As you might think, golfer’s elbow is often caused by activities such as golf, but it can be the result of any repetitive, forceful movements of the arms, wrists, or fingers.
Some common causes of golfer’s elbow include:
• Racket sports
• Weight training
• Manual labor
These activities are especially likely to lead to golfer’s elbow if an improper technique or inappropriate equipment is used.
What Causes Golfer’s Elbow in Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views the body in a very different way from western medicine. It sees golfer’s elbow as a result of stagnation in the body. Stagnation simply means that vital substances such as qi and blood cannot flow as freely as they should, and begin to get backed up in one area.
This stagnation can happen for many different reasons, but in the case of golfer’s elbow, it is repeated use of the elbow joint which causes the problem. When this narrow joint is overused for a long time, the surrounding channels can begin to change their shape in such a way that qi and blood have difficulty passing through. When qi and blood accumulate in the elbow, it can lead to pain, swelling, and stiffness, or what western medicine would refer to as inflammation.
Golfer’s elbow may also cause numbness in the fingers, and this can give us a good idea of which channels are being affected. The ring finger and little finger are most commonly affected, and these are connected with the Heart, Small Intestine, and Triple Burner channels.
Golfer’s Elbow Treatment Options
Golfer’s elbow is usually a self-limiting condition, which means that it will clear up by itself over time. However, if you are unable to play your favorite sport or work due to golfer’s elbow symptoms, you will want to speed up your recovery as much as possible.
Conventional golfer’s elbow treatments include rest, ice packs, and over-the-counter medications if necessary. Steroid injections are not usually recommended for golfer’s elbow as they are ineffective in the long run, and surgery is very much a last resort.
With such limited treatment options available, it is no wonder that more and more people are turning to TCM and acupuncture for golfer’s elbow relief.
Acupuncture for Golfer’s Elbow
Acupuncture benefits golfer’s elbow in a number of different ways. From a TCM perspective, it can help to clear any channels which have become blocked and restore the free flow of qi and blood to the area. From the viewpoint of western medicine, acupuncture for golfer’s elbow helps in the following ways:
• Reducing local inflammation
• Improving circulation to promote healing
• Relaxing muscles and releasing trigger points
• Altering the way that the nervous system interprets pain signals
• Releasing endorphins, your body’s natural painkilling chemicals
In addition to this, acupuncture is a holistic therapy, meaning that it treats the body as a whole rather than just a collection of symptoms. This means that when you have acupuncture for golfer’s elbow, you may experience relief from other, seemingly unrelated symptoms as a bonus.
Massage Therapy for Golfer’s Elbow
Another useful TCM treatment is massage therapy. This can be used alone or in combination with acupuncture for golfer’s elbow relief. Massage can help to relax muscles and tendons in the painful area, and release any trigger points that may have formed.
One of the most significant benefits of massage therapy for golfer’s elbow is that you can use it at home to relieve your symptoms in between treatments. Your provider can show you the best massage techniques for golfer’s elbow, along with some simple stretches and exercises which may also help.
Preventing Golfer’s Elbow
Prevention is always better than cure, and there are some simple steps that you can take to protect yourself against conditions like golfer’s elbow.
• Always warm up sufficiently before doing any physical activity
• Stretch before and after exercise
• Ensure that you have the right equipment for activities, and that it is the right size for you
• Have a professional check your form before undertaking any new activities for the first time
• Practice good lifting techniques
• If you feel warning signs such as pain during any activity, stop and rest as needed
By following these basic guidelines, you should be able to reduce your risk of developing golfer’s elbow and other movement-related injuries. This applies whether you are on the golf course, the tennis court, or simply doing your job