Most of the muscles that flex your wrist are attached to a bony bump on the inside of your elbow called the “medial epicondyle.” Sometimes, through injury or overuse, the site where these muscles originate can become irritated or inflamed. This condition is called “medial epicondylitis”, or “golfer’s elbow.”
Although the condition is named “golfer’s elbow,” over 90% of those affecte
d are not even athletes, much less golfers. Nonetheless, the condition is more common in certain sports, especially golf, throwing, bowling, football, archery, and weight lifting. Occupations that require heavy gripping or repeated hand movements, like carpentry or typing, can predispose you to this condition. Smokers and people who are obese are more likely to experience this condition.
Medial epicondylitis is the most frequent cause of pain on the “inside” of your elbow but is 3-10 times less likely that its “outside” counterpart- lateral epicondylitis (i.e. “tennis elbow”). Medial epicondylitis is most common between the ages of 40 and 60. The condition strikes the dominant arm in over ¾ of cases. Your symptoms will likely include a dull aching pain over the bump on the inside of your elbow that becomes more intense with use. As the condition progresses, you may notice grip weakness or limitations when shaking hands, grasping objects, and opening jars. Be sure to tell your doctor if you notice numbness or tingling traveling toward your hand.
If left untreated, medial epicondylitis can last indefinitely. Studies show that up to 40% of untreated patients suffer prolonged discomfort, some as long as three years. Fortunately, conservative treatment like the type provided in our office is effective for relieving this condition. Our office may prescribe an elbow “counterforce brace” to help dampen stress to the irritated area. This type of brace should not be used in patients who have numbness or tingling radiating into their fingers. Some patients may benefit from a “wrist splint” that is used at night to allow your tendon to heal in a lengthened position. Using ice or ice massage over your elbow can help limit pain. Your home exercises will play an important role in your recovery.
Initially, you may need to avoid activities that cause an increase in pain, like gripping, lifting, golfing, throwing balls, or swinging a racquet. Be sure to warm up properly and stretch prior to any heavy physical activity. Smokers would benefit from quitting. Overweight patients should consider increasing their aerobic activity to shed excess pounds.
Here is a brief description of the treatments we may use to help manage your problem.
Your chiropractor has found joints in your body that are not moving freely. This can cause tightness and discomfort and can accelerate unwanted degeneration i.e. arthritis. Your chiropractor will apply a gentle force with their hands, or with hand held instruments, in order to restore motion to any “restricted” joints. Sometimes a specialized table will be used to assist with these safe and effective “adjustments”. Joint manipulation improves flexibility, relieves pain and helps maintain healthy joints.
We may apply electrotherapy modalities that produce light electrical pulses transmitted through electrodes placed over your specific sites of concern. These comfortable modalities work to decrease your pain, limit inflammation and ease muscle spasm. Hot or cold packs are often used in conjunction, to enhance the effect of these modalities. Another available option is therapeutic ultrasound. Ultrasound pushes sound vibrations into tissues. When these vibrations reach your deep tissues, heat develops and unwanted waste products are dispersed.
Overworked muscles often become tight and develop knots or “trigger points”. Chronic tightness produces inflammation and swelling that ultimately leads to the formation of “adhesions” between tissues. Your chiropractor will apply pressure with their hands, or with specialized tools, in order to release muscle tightness and soft-tissue adhesions. This will help to improve your circulation, relieve pain and restore flexibility.
Muscle tightness or weakness causes discomfort and alters normal joint function, leading to additional problems. Your chiropractor will target tight or weak muscles with specific therapeutic stretching and strengthening to help increase tissue flexibility, build strength, and ease pain. Healthy, strong, and flexible muscles may help prevent re-injury.
After this initial course of treatment we will reassess your progress. We will determine the need for any additional care after your reassessment.
Ergonomics is the science of adjusting your workstation to minimize strain in the following ways:
✓ Maintain proper body position and alignment while sitting at your desk - Hips, knees and elbows at 90 degrees, shoulders relaxed, feet flat on floor or footrest.
✓ Wrists should not be bent while at the keyboard. Forearms and wrists should not be leaning on a hard edge.
✓ Use audio equipment that keeps you from bending your neck (i.e., Bluetooth, speakerphones, headsets).
✓ Monitors should be visible without leaning or straining and the top line of type should be 15 degrees below eye level.
✓ Use a lumber roll for lower back support.
✓ Avoid sitting on anything that would create an imbalance or uneven pressure (like your wallet).
✓ Take a 10-second break every 20 minutes: Micro activities include: standing, walking, or moving your head in a “plus sign” fashion.
✓ Periodically, perform the “Brugger relief position” -Position your body at the chair’s edge, feet pointed outward. Weight should be on your legs and your abdomen should be relaxed. Tilt your pelvis forward, lift your sternum, arch your back, drop your arms, and roll out your palms while squeezing your shoulders together. Take a few deep cleansing breaths.
Sports creams come in a variety of styles that produce either a sensation of heat or cold. These creams do not speed healing, but may provide temporary relief. Their effect is to pleasantly irritate the skin by stimulating the highly sensitive surface nerves, so that your brain can temporarily "forget" about your underlying deeper pain.
✓ Sports creams have no known side-effects when applied in small amounts but do not apply more than a 2-3 of times per day unless otherwise directed.
Here are a few pointers for selecting your racquet:
✓ Improper grip size is a known contributor to elbow problems. When you grip the racquet, you should be able to snuggly slide the index finger of the other hand between the tips of your fingers in the base of your palm.
✓ A good grip overwrap can help prevent slipping and decrease the amount of force required to hold the racquet. (Factor the extra wrap into grip size, though)
✓ Players should quickly release their grip tightness after ball-to-racquet strike in order to reduce stress on the elbow.
✓ Increasing the size of your racquet head can help to reduce arm stress.
✓ Avoid choosing “longer” or “heavier” racquets that will increase the amount of stress on your elbow.
✓ Graphite is a light racquet but does not absorb vibration well. When possible, choose a more flexible frame that helps to absorb some of the shock of the ball’s impact.
✓ Avoid playing with old or wet tennis balls as the additional speed and mass of the ball increases stress on your elbow. “Softer” or “stage 2” tennis balls weigh less than standard tennis balls which will produce less stress on your elbow when you strike the ball. These balls can also slow down the game slightly.