Elbow Woes

By: Susan, PTA (Saugus Clinic)

Stan is an avid golfer who typically hits the links a few times a week during spring, summer and fall. This past spring, he started noticing a nagging pain on the inside of his elbow when he teed off. First, it was just a slight, dull ache, with an occasional sharp, shooting pain that radiated into his forearm and wrist. Then, Stan noticed the pain was progressively worsening as the golf season continued into the fall, to the point where he could no longer swing a club effectively. But he was also having difficulty lifting packages, grooming and eating due to the pain and weakness, and he noticed increased pain and stiffness at night and in the mornings.

Dave was an avid tennis player who loved to play outdoors in seasonable weather, but moved indoors to continue playing throughout the year.  In the spring, he started noticing a slight, dull ache on the outside of his elbow. It would be OK during a match, but he noticed some pain with his backhand swing that occasionally would be sharp and shooting, radiating into his forearm and wrist. As the tennis season wore on, Dave began having difficulty with his backhand and serves and eventually found himself unable to play at all due to the pain. He also noticed that his elbow stiffened up later in the day and sleep was interrupted as well. He was having difficulty with the simplest of tasks, like lifting a gallon of milk or opening a jar.

What do Stan and Dave have in common? Both are suffering from Epicondylitis - an inflammation of the tendons in the elbow caused by overuse or trauma. In Stan’s case, it is Medial Epicondylitis, or “Golfer’s Elbow”, meaning that the tendons on the inside of his elbow have become inflamed, with surrounding swelling putting pressure on the nerves, which caused the radiating pain into his hand. Dave is suffering from the same condition, but in his case, it is Lateral Epicondylitis, more commonly known as “Tennis Elbow”. Also the result of overuse or injury, the tendons, which connect the muscles to the bones, have become inflamed and tight, with surrounding swelling putting pressure on the nerves radiating down the outside of the elbow into the forearm.

So, what can be done to help Stan and Dave get back to the games they love? First of all, REST is required to help the injured tissues begin to heal. In each case, the continued use of the elbow without any rest contributed to the ongoing and worsening pain and suffering for Stan and Dave. Each of them needs to take a break from the sport they love to allow plenty of healing time. Secondly, ICE is necessary to bring down the swelling and reducing the pain symptoms. ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEDICATIONS can also provide relief, not just from the pain, but with the swelling and inflammation of the tendons. STRETCHING the tendons that are stiff and tight will also help in the healing process and will increase the extensibility, allowing increased motion in the elbows and wrists. Physical Therapy can help too! With a variety of modalities, deep tendon massage and instructing Stan and Dave in proper stretches and exercises, the therapists can help them achieve their ultimate goal of recovery and returning to their respective sports!

At Partners In Rehab, PT we offer a wide array of Physical Therapy treatments and specialized programs that are tailored to meet the needs of each individual. Here you will receive motivation, ongoing support, and superb clinical expertise from the best team of Physical Therapists in New England. Visit us online at for more info about our clinic, get to know our staff, read our quarterly newsletter, or register for care. At Partners In Rehab, PT we’re here to help you HEAL BETTER. MOVE BETTER. FEEL BETTER.

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