Swinging Towards Relief: Acupuncture to Conquer Golfer's Elbow

Jun 15, 2023
Swinging Towards Relief: Acupuncture to Conquer Golfer's Elbow

Are you experiencing pain in the inner part of your elbow? Does the pain exacerbate during movement or after repetitive use of your fingers, hand, wrist, and forearm? These are the usual symptoms of golfer's elbow or medial epicondylitis. The name golfer's elbow was coined because golfers often get this condition from repetitive and forceful stress on their hands and wrist. However, this condition does not exclusively affect golfers. The majority of medial epicondylitis patients are those who do manual labor and heavy lifting such as those in the construction industry. Players of other sports such as baseball (that's why it is also called pitcher's elbow), tennis, and weightlifters are also prone to this. 

Which anatomical structures are affected by the golfer's elbow? As mentioned, the pain starts on the boney prominence of your elbow's inner or medial aspect known as the medial epicondyle. You may think the pain is from the bone, but it is not. The inflammation of the tendons in that area actually causes the pain. A tendon is a fibrous collagen that attaches the muscle to the bone. The repetitive and forceful use of the muscles whose tendons are attached to the medial epicondyle is what's causing the pain. Those are the flexor and pronator muscles of your forearm. It will start as typical muscle pain followed by inflammation. If left untreated, it can lead to calcification and fibrosis. 

Okay, so what now? Are there ways to get rid of the pain? Or is there a way for me to prevent this from happening in the future? Absolutely. It is preventable and it can be managed. 

  1. Strengthen your forearm muscles - Use free weights or resistance bands to increase muscle strength, build endurance, and also strengthen your forearm bones to adapt to load. It's best to consult a trainer and physiotherapist for best results.
  2. Stretch - Stretching before and after strenuous activity is often overlooked. Do stretching on your forearm muscles before work or training to warm up and also after to cool them down.
  3. Use of adaptive devices - Adaptive devices on your tools, whether for work or for sports, can substantially help decrease the tension in your muscles and joints. These include opting to use a piece of lighter equipment or adding a material to provide a large grip on your sports or occupation equipment. Some patients may also be prescribed bracing and splint.
  4. Correct your form - Correcting your form does not only apply when you exercise but also in your everyday tasks like lifting heavy loads. Keep your wrist in a neutral and rigid position if possible.
  5. Schedule an acupuncture appointment - If you are looking for alternative ways to address the pain and minimize its occurrence, you should opt for acupuncture. Unlike the conventional treatment for medial epicondylitis (OTC painkillers, steroid shots etc.), acupuncture provides little to no side effects. Acupuncturists aim to heal the condition, not just to mask the pain. Acupuncture encourages blood circulation which helps in reducing inflammation faster than without treatment. Other Traditional Chinese medicine modalities such as herbal medication, gua sha, medicinal massage (tui na), cupping, and moxibustion can also be added to your treatment plan if your acupuncturist sees that you'd benefit from it. In NYC Acupuncture + Wellness, those TCM modalities are available and can be combined with some modern alternative techniques. Dr. Ting Wu will definitely create a treatment plan suitable for your goals and needs.
  6. Respect fatigue and take a rest - Medial epicondylitis stems from overuse. It's completely understandable that there are times when you cannot stop and rest especially when your job demands it but when you do have the opportunity to rest, please do so. Your body will thank you for it.

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