You do a lot of work with your wrist and fingers. Do you know how many muscles they contain? Zero. The muscles that control their movement are located in your forearm. They are of two types- flexors that bend the wrist and fingers and extensors that straighten them. Muscles in your forearm are connected to the wrist and fingers by amazing structures called tendons. In your arms, they extend from your fingers to your elbows. If you move your fingers you can see the tendons moving under the skin on your forearm.
The Vital Role Of Tendons In Body Movement
Tendons are flexible fibers of tissue made up of collagen that connect muscles to bones. When a muscle contracts, it exerts tension on a tendon, which then exerts tension on a bone. This way, tendons transfer the force generated by muscles to the bones. Thus they are a vital link in the mechanics of body movement. Tendons also stabilize joints helping to maintain good body posture and absorb shocks protecting the muscles from injury.
What Is Golfer’s Elbow?
Golfer’s elbow, also known by the tongue twister name medial epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the tendons that attach to the inside of the elbow. Though the pain is felt on the inside elbow, its cause originates at the wrist and fingers.
Repetitive twisting and gripping of the wrist and fingers are the major cause of the golfer’s elbow. Thus the issue is common among golfers and hence the name. But it can also develop from swinging a tennis racquet, using screwdrivers, or pounding away on your laptop keyboard.
Symptoms: Should You Care
If you feel pain or tenderness on the inner elbow, and you perform activities that involve repetitive use of the wrist or fingers, it will be prudent to see your doctor and get the diagnosis. Golfer’s elbow can also cause weakness and stiffness in the forearm or wrist. This can make it difficult to perform activities that involve gripping or flexing the wrist or fingers.
Causes: How We Got Here
Having weak muscles can put excessive strain on the tendons. Repetitive or forceful gripping also results in the same. Improper equipment, incorrect grip size, tools that are unbalanced or too heavy, poor technique or posture, jerky movements, etc can all contribute to medial epicondylitis.
Rehabilitation: Moving Forward
◼ Rest: The activity that caused the condition should be put to a halt for a while. In mild to moderate cases, a period of rest alone will allow the injury to heal. Avoid heavy lifting, carrying, and repetitive activities with the wrist and fingers until you have fully recuperated from the injury.
◼ Ice: Apply ice on your elbow for 20-30 minutes, 3 times a day, during the early days of pain. Continue it for 20 minutes after you resume active work or sports. Apply the ice bag over a towel wrapped around your elbow to protect the skin.
◼ Brace: An elastic strap can be worn one or two inches below the elbow on your forearm. This will give compression to the forearm muscles, reducing the force transmitted through the tendons. Braces may be worn at all times during the early days but only while performing stressful activities, once the pain subsides.
◼ Warmup: Stretching makes the muscles more flexible and breaks down the scar tissue resulting from inflammation, thus preventing stiffness in the area. Before starting work or sports, put all your joints through their complete range of motion.
◼ Equipment: Once you resume work or sports, try to use lightweight equipment and correct grip size. They can be easy on your tendons and will prevent aggravating the existing condition.
◼ Technique: While you are performing a repetitive activity, ensure that you are following the right technique. If you are lifting weights or training for sports, get feedback about your posture from your trainer and maintain proper form.
◼ Exercises: Workouts can strengthen the muscles attached to the injured tendons and speed up the healing process. It is important that exercise that causes pain should be avoided. They can also be used as warm-up exercises before sports or other repetitive gripping activities. Forearm extensor scratch, wrist flexor stretch, wrist pronation and supination, towel twist, wrist curls, etc. are some of the useful exercises that can strengthen your forearm muscles.
The amount of time it takes to recover from a golfer’s elbow varies depending on the severity of the injury. Usually, the symptoms subside within a few weeks of rest and physical therapy. If you are consistent with the rehabilitation exercises, you can resume work or sports involving the injured tendon within a few months. But it is still important to continue the physical therapy for longer to avoid a recurring injury.