Golfer's elbow? But I've never been on a golf course.
January 25, 2010 10:39 AM   Subscribe

What can I do about my possible golfer's elbow?

Since October, I have been having bad wrist and elbow pain. I saw my doctor twice before my health insurance ran out, and he said it was tendinitis. He gave me a prescription for extra-strength ibuprofen, and that was it. He didn't examine me either time--just poked at my arm and declared a generic diagnosis.

The pain disappeared for a bit--about two weeks--in December, then came back with a vengeance. Now I am in more pain than ever.

Unfortunately, I don't have a doctor any more. I may be able to get health coverage in the near future, but that will be two to three months at the least. The office is busy.

Despite my lack of athletic movement, I believe that I have golfer's elbow. My inner elbow hurts, as does the knobby bone at the outside of my right wrist. It also hits the carpal(?) above the knobby bone. Pain is mostly in my wrist (especially when bending) and shoots up my ring and pinky finger. Although my elbow pain is minimal, I believe that the pain around that area is the ultimate source. I could have inadvertently injured my wrist while caring for my elbow.

I need the use of my hand. Any sort of job that I'm qualified for involves intensive typing. All of my hobbies are very hand-focused. This is a huge quality of life issue for me.

Here's what I'm doing to heal:

1) Limiting hand use. I need to type, but video games, art projects, and sewing are out.
2) Taking magnesium, glycosamine, B6, and B-complex.
3) Drinking water to hydrate the tendons.
4) Gentle stretches, not enough to cause pain. I do a prayer pose, flex my hand back and forth with arm extended, and other things I've found on various sites.
5) Frequent icing. I've started doing "ice massage" with ice cubes, and it feels nice.
6) Massage along the length of the tendon, from elbow to pinky.
7) Soaking the area in hot water at least once a day.
8) Sleeping with my arm elevated.

What else can I do to heal while I wait out my chance to visit the doctor? Is there anything I'm doing that sounds wrong? Does my problem seem like golfer's elbow, or am I barking up the wrong tree? Can you recommend any other vitamins or minerals to take?

I'm feeling really frustrated and hopeless! Thank you for any help you can give.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I know that the conditions are not exactly the same, but I would suggest you try these exercises for tennis elbow, which work by invoking eccentric contractions of the muscles involved. They seem promising.
posted by OmieWise at 10:51 AM on January 25, 2010

How about something like this? Oh, and I would research the use of frequent ice.
posted by bunny hugger at 10:57 AM on January 25, 2010

First, read this interview with Pete Egoscue. Pete developed his method after getting shot in Vietnam and declining to live with the pain and restriction the doctors said were his lot.

What your problem sounds like is "movement starvation". The human body needs a certain volume of daily, full-body movement. In the absence of that, the body starts shutting down the muscles etc that aren't getting used. Sitting at a desk/riding around in a car day in and out causes the inner posture muscles (the ones that hold us upright) to atrophy, and then we get bad posture and a misaligned musculo-skeletal system.

Chronic pain is the body's way of telling us "You're not giving me the volume of movement I need to maintain my systems. Important muscles have atrophied, the body is out of alignment, and when you move things are grinding improperly. Change this."

Go to the library and get a copy of his book Pain Free.

Best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:04 AM on January 25, 2010

Nth-ing the advice in the nytimes article Omiewise posted. It helped immensely with my tennis elbow and I was highly skeptical. It took a few weeks, but I slowly built up those muscles and strengthened the tendons. I also had to address issues with my stroke form & the weight of my tennis racket. I only mention that because you may need to look at the ergonomics of your working environment to see if you can make any adjustments there.
posted by SoulOnIce at 11:38 AM on January 25, 2010

You might benefit from going to a massage therapist to get a good work-over before you go to the doctor. At the very least, it would feel good and be relaxing to have your muscles loosened up.

I've been reading a book, The Trigger Point Workbook, and it has been very informative as to how much pain can actually result from trigger points (aka knots) in muscles. The author talks quite a bit about tennis elbow and golfer's elbow and might be worth checking out. Your story sounds like a case study straight out of the book, to be honest. The book helps you discover the cause of your pain, the anatomy/mechanics behind what's going on and how you can treat it yourself (if it's in fact trigger point-related). A professional massage therapist is probably a good place to start, though, especially if you think it's related to repetitive strain.

Good luck! Living with pain is no fun and I hope you are able to find a solution.
posted by bristolcat at 4:47 PM on January 25, 2010

Nthing Egoscue — after 15 years of intermittent but chronic back pain (of the back-brace-and-cane, immobilized-by-pain-for-weeks variety) following an injury, I discovered Egoscue. I no longer consider myself a person with a bad back; I no longer consider the concept of a "bad back" to be a useful or relevant one. Two years ago, before I started doing the Egoscue exercises, I was on Vicodin and barely able to move. Today I'm training for a half marathon and considered "the athletic one" by my co-workers.

Also nthing the Trigger Point Workbook, which has been very helpful for me, as well as Trigger Point Therapy for Myofascial Pain: The Practice of Informed Touch and Trigger Point Self-Care Manual: For Pain-Free Movement, both by Donna Finando.
posted by Lexica at 5:23 PM on January 25, 2010

The best way to rest this tendon is with a wrist brace that restricts rotation of the forearm. These things do take a long time to heal.
posted by neuron at 8:51 PM on January 25, 2010

Do you lean on your elbow? Don't. I was getting tingling pain in my pinkie and ring fingers and that's what was causing it.
posted by deborah at 10:06 PM on January 26, 2010

Is the back of your hand numb or painful? You may have cubital tunnel syndrome like I did. I had to have surgery on my elbow to resection my ulnar nerve.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:48 AM on January 28, 2010

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