If you have medial epicondylitis, also known as golfer's elbow, wearing a special brace around your forearm can help relieve symptoms. But with the seemingly endless options, how do you choose the best stand for you?
What is a golfer's elbow?
Golfer's elbow occurs when the forearm muscle attachment point at the inside bend of your elbow becomes inflamed. These muscles are responsible for flexing the wrist and fingers, and repetitive or strenuous exercise can strain them.
Muscle and tendon tissues become disorganized and may become inflamed so they cannot function properly. "We've seen this in people who do throwing, swinging or weightlifting, who do the job of grasping things.
Elbow and forearm (lower arm) pain are the most common symptoms, especially when you bend your wrist or squeeze something with your hand. But some people also experience weakness or numbness in their wrists and hands.
It's important to figure out what's causing this so you can get the right treatment. Rest can calm your symptoms, but it doesn't restore the ability of your muscles and tendons to do their normal workload.
Treating Golfer's Elbow
If you think you have golfer's elbow, it is recommended that you see a physical therapist.
There's usually something above or below the elbow that overworks or doesn't work these muscles properly, he says. A physical therapist can determine the cause of symptoms, develop a plan to manage them and prevent future problems.
How do golfer's elbow pads work?
Most golfer's elbow braces are reaction braces with hook-and-loop closures and a raised padded surface that you can place directly on the affected muscle.
As you tighten the straps, the raised area puts additional pressure directly on the affected muscles below the elbow pain attachment. The pressure of the shoulder girdle helps reduce pain and strain in these muscles. It can be used to help in the short term when you work with a physical therapist for a long-term fix.
Long-term rehabilitation usually includes stretching and exercises to help rebuild the strength and function of the arm.
What to look for in a golfer's elbow brace
Many companies make elbow braces for golfers, but they all follow the same basic design and are equally effective. Some only include a strap, while others also come with built-in compression sleeves. (A compression sleeve is a wide fabric made of a tight, stretchy material that can be worn around the arm.)
While there are many different varieties, no definitive research points to a particular brand or type, as they all work the same. After your condition improves, it may be more helpful to use only a compression sleeve. They help keep the area warm and blood circulating. While they don't offer much from a support standpoint, many people like the feeling of compression.
How to Wear Golfer's Elbow Pads
Elbow rests for golfers usually come in small, medium and large sizes. Measure around your forearm just below the elbow and follow the manufacturer's size chart. You should wear the brace on the thickest part of your forearm, about two finger widths down from your elbow.
A proper brace should feel comfortable - but if you start to see any skin discoloration or feel tingling, it's too tight. You should be able to slide your fingers comfortably under the unpadded section.
For the final fit test:
Bring your forearm palm up and make a fist.
Curl your fist up at your wrist while pushing down with your other hand. If your brace is installed correctly, you should experience no pain.
If you do experience pain, adjust the golfer's elbow rest by moving the raised pad to the left or right until you no longer feel uncomfortable with this movement.
Wear the brace during everyday activities that involve using the affected arm. Over time, you may only need to wear it when exercising or performing tasks that exacerbate symptoms. Do not wear it while sleeping as it can negatively affect your blood circulation.
How long do you need to brace a golfer's elbow?
The answer depends on your injury. The more severe it is, the longer it may benefit from wearing a forearm brace for a golfer's elbow. You will most likely need to wear it for at least a few weeks.
Your physical therapist can help you get the right fit and recommend the best length of time for your situation.
How to Prevent Golfers' Elbows
To prevent recurring "Groundhog Day" on golfers' elbows, it is recommended to keep:
Shoulder Mobility: Always make sure your arms can move overhead and sideways.
Good posture: Poor posture can put your spine and shoulders in poor alignment, which can lead to the development of conditions like golfer's elbow.
If you experience golfer's elbow symptoms, it's important to address them quickly. (Ironically, many amateur golfers get tennis elbow instead of golfer's elbow. Tennis elbow is the same problem, except on the outside of the elbow.)