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Treating Golfer’s Elbow with Shockwave Therapy

Golfer’s elbow, medically known as medial epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of your elbow. 

The pain might spread into your forearm and wrist. Golfer’s elbow is similar to tennis elbow, which occurs on the outside of the elbow. It’s not limited to golfers, tennis players and others who repeatedly use their wrists or clench their fingers also can develop golfer’s elbow.

The traditional treatment for golfer’s elbow involves rest, ice, and stretching and strengthening exercise rehabilitation. However, for persistent cases, more advanced treatments are sought, and one of the emerging therapies is shockwave therapy.

What is Shockwave Therapy?

Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment that involves the delivery of shock waves to injured soft tissue to reduce pain and promote healing. Originally used to dissolve kidney stones, this technology has been adapted to treat musculoskeletal conditions with success rates as high as 80% in 3-6 sessions.

The shock waves are sudden, high amplitude pulses of mechanical energy, similar to sound waves, that are delivered to the tissue via the surface of the skin.

How Does Shockwave Therapy Work for Golfer’s Elbow?

  • Stimulating Healing: The high-energy acoustic waves that are delivered during the treatment may stimulate a healing response in the damaged tendon tissues.
  • Reducing Pain: Shockwave therapy is pro-inflammatory, which can lead to a reduction in pain through the body’s natural healing process.
  • Increasing Blood Flow: The treatment may promote revascularisation, where new blood vessels form, improving blood supply and oxygenation to the treated area and facilitating the healing process.
  • Breaking Down Calcifications: Shockwaves can break down calcifications that often form in the tendons of patients with golfer’s elbow.

The Procedure

 Here is what typically happens:

  1. The skin around the elbow is cleaned.
  2. A gel is applied to the area to promote shockwave transmission.
  3. A hand-held device is used to deliver the shock waves.
  4. The treatment lasts approximately 5 minutes. This needs to be moderately painful when it’s being delivered to be effective. 

Patients may require three to six sessions of shockwave therapy; the exact number will depend on the severity of the condition and the patient’s response to the treatment.

Effectiveness of Shockwave Therapy

The effectiveness of shockwave therapy for golfer’s elbow can vary. Some studies have shown that it can significantly reduce pain and improve function in patients with golfer’s elbow, particularly in chronic cases that have not responded to other treatments.

However, as with any treatment, results can vary, and not all patients will respond to shockwave therapy. It is also important to note that while shockwave therapy can be effective, it is often part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes physical therapy, exercises, and sometimes changes in activity.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

Shockwave therapy is considered safe, but like all medical procedures, it can have risks and side effects, including:

  • Pain during or after treatment
  • Redness or swelling

Most side effects are temporary and mild. We will discuss this with you to make sure your presentation is likely to respond to shockwave therapy. 

Shockwave therapy offers a promising alternative for the treatment of golfer’s elbow, especially for individuals who have not had success with traditional therapies. The treatment is non-invasive, can be completed in a short period, and has minimal side effects, making it an attractive

Playing golf. Young woman playing golf with golf instructor

Understanding Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, occurs when there is an injury to the tendons around the medial epicondyle, the inside part of the elbow. This condition is not only painful but can significantly impact a person’s ability to perform simple tasks such as shaking hands or turning a doorknob.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The main symptom of golfer’s elbow is pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow, which can sometimes extend along the inner side of the forearm. Stiffness, weakness, and a tingling or numbness sensation may also accompany the pain. Diagnosis typically involves a physical exam and may include imaging tests such as ultrasound.

Conservative Treatments

Before considering shockwave therapy, conservative treatments are typically recommended. These can include rest and avoidance of activities that exacerbate symptoms, application of ice to reduce inflammation and pain, physical therapy exercises, and wearing a brace or a forearm strap.

Advanced Treatment Options

When conservative treatments fail to provide relief, more advanced options may be considered, including corticosteroid injections, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, and ultrasound therapy.

Integrating Shockwave Therapy

While the mechanisms behind shockwave therapy are still being investigated, the therapy has been noted for its role in neovascularization and the formation of new blood vessels, which is thought to be fundamental in the healing process of chronic tendinopathies. Shockwaves promote an inflammatory response for the body to kick-start the healing process. 

Patient Experiences

Patient experiences with shockwave therapy are varied. Some report immediate pain relief and improved mobility, while others may experience slight discomfort during the procedure.

Post-treatment Care

Following shockwave therapy, patients are usually advised to rest the treated area and avoid strenuous activities for 24 hours.

Lifestyle and Preventative Measures

Patients are also educated on lifestyle changes and ergonomic adjustments that may help prevent the recurrence of golfer’s elbow, such as proper technique and equipment for sports and activities, stretching and strengthening exercises, and taking breaks from repetitive tasks.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while shockwave therapy is a relatively new treatment for golfer’s elbow, it is becoming increasingly popular due to its non-invasiveness and the potential for quick pain relief. 

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