I’m fortunate in that I regularly play golf with a doctor, two doctors actually and today I asked them, can golf cause tennis elbow?
And yes, golf can cause tennis elbow and less commonly, golf elbow. Tennis elbow is pain on the outside of the elbow and Golf elbow is pain on the inside of the elbow. But you don’t have to be a tennis player or a golfer to suffer from this condition.
What is tennis elbow?
The proper name for it is lateral epicondylitis and it’s a recognised medical condition. Typically you’ll have pain just below the pointy bit of your elbow on the outside of your forearm. It hurts and even the smallest movement can cause pain. So naturally, golfing with tennis elbow can be difficult. Around 30% of people will have tennis elbow at any pint in time. It is more common in people over the age of 40 and affects men and women equally.
Why does it occur?
Our bodies have evolved over tens of thousands of years to cope with the stresses that we put on them. But as tennis was only invented in 1873 and (golf in 1457) our bodies aren’t really designed for the task.
Repetative actions of any type as found in sports, decorating, or violin playing can damage the ligaments around the elbow which tear slightly and become inflamed. That’s what causes the pain.
Is there a cure for tennis elbow?
The standard “cure” for tennis elbow is to stop the activity that causes the pain.
Before I became obsessed with golf, my passion sport was tennis and I played a lot. I also had tennis elbow. As did yet another doctor who I knew. Every time I was at the tennis centre, she was there, often practicing on her own. She got tennis elbow and I didn’t see her again for 6 months. I guess if you have all the information, have councelled others on the injury, and then suffer it yourself, you’re going to take the most effective course of action available to you.
But I’m not like that, I’m very stubborn. A character trait that I think helps in any sport. Stubbornness in this context means, “things are not working out how I’d like them to, so I’m going to find a way to make it different.
So when I had this problem, my immediate response was to seek out a sports massage therapist. I had massage sessions monthly for around 7 years until she decided to move to anothery country. She also used an ultasound device on my elbow. Happily, this combination reduced the pain that I felt and I was able to play both golf and tennis without being compromised.
I did find this possible solution for golfer’s elbow and it comes from an unusual source in the from of Tom Randall, a top rock climber – it’s a simple exercise that takes only a few minutes and Tom says that it removed 2 years of pain in two weeks.
What about other types of injury or condition?
Obviously, your first port of call for any injury or health worry, should be a medical practicioner. As an older golfer, who often plays through some bodily discomfort, I offer my thoughts.
Here’s the things that people commonly ask about golf and injuries:
Will golf hurt my back/can golf cause lower back pain?
Player backache during the game
If you have an existing problem. yes it probably will. Golf involves the use of a number of muscles and a golf shot is a twisting motion. For someone who’s fit and healthy, that’s a gentle workout; but for someone who’s not, as for any sport or activity, golf could make an existing condition worse.
I play all year round through all four seasons. One thing I’ve noticed, and it applies to all sport, is that any aches and pains are worse when it’s cold, as is the probability of injury.
You’re going to be walking around 5 miles per round too, if you don’t use a cart and again, whilst that’s generally good exercise, it may result in some back pain.
The younger and fitter you are, the less likely it is that golf will cause pain of any kind. Young people (and women more than men) are flexible naturally.
If you’re an older golfer, who doesn’t have any current issues, golf is unlikely to cause them. That said, if you spend every day at the range hitting hundreds of shots, you’re probably going to feel it in your back, sooner or later.
The key is to gently strengthen the back muscles with specific exercises. And take it easy on your shots. Most players as they age will lose some distance, but they usually compensate for this with a higher degree of accuracy.
My solution, and I have had some lower back pain after golf, is as previously mentioned. I get a back massage every month, more frequently if necessary. That tends to keep everything straightened out and stops problems developing.
Most amateur golfers treat golf as their exercise regime. That is to say they play golf to keep fit. Professionals on the other hand have specific exercise programs that are designed to help their golf game. In other words the get fit to play golf.
Professionals also have a warm up routine which they go through before they hit a shot and a set of drills for the range that they use before they get onto the first tee. They also tend to play in sunny climates. All of which means that they minimise the possibility of injuries and wayward shots off the first tee.
Will golf make sciatica worse?
Probably not. Golfers with Sciatica can either generally play or are unable to play. The standard advice is to keep mobile, so golf can help. Probably best not to carry your bag though.
Can golf cause chest pain?
Surprisingly, yes golf can cause chest pain and it’s quite common for it to do so. It’s quite easy to damage the muscle structure in the chest, which causes pain. Once damaged, it takes some time for the muscles to heal. A condition that can particularly affect beginners is stress fractures of the ribs as this article discusses.
Anyone who suffers from shortness of breath may find that the exertions of golf make breathing difficult, particularly if the course is hill. Just be sensible if that’s you, and get checked out.
Can golf cause a hernia?
It’s unlikely, but if you have a hernia, golf will almost certainly exacerbate the symptoms. Apparantly, hernias are simply down to a weakness in the muscles of the abdominal wall and there is no way to prevent them, as explained in this article.
Can you golf while pregnant/can golf cause miscarriage?
This video gives us some perspective …
Yes it can cause miscarriage if you over exert yourself, but many women play golf when they are pregnant without any problem. Some say that it’s the best golf they have ever played. Obviously, take medical advice.
Can golf cause plantar fasciitis?
Yes it can. Planar Fascitis is pain in the connective tissue that supports the bottom of your foot. The stresses and strains of walking 5 miles perhaps 3 times a week whilst carrying a golf bag and twisting against the foot can cause issues. Better constructed golf shoes would help, but golf shoes are mainly constructed with grip and waterproofness in mind, not foot health.
Can golf cause trigger finger?
Yes golf can cause trigger finger which is a condition where one or more fingers “lock up”. Gripping the club too hard and excessive use of mats in the practice range are the culprits. The usual treatment is cortisone injections.
Can golf cause costochondritis?
Yes it can, as again can many athletic or sporting activities. Costochondritis is inflamation of the area where cartilidge joins the ribs and can cause chest pain. This article explains the condition and the symptoms.
So there you have it, golf is trying to kill you, as is life in general. The message here is really to maintain fitness so that you are able to play golf without discomfort or injury. Relying on golf for your fitness regime alone, means that at some point you’ll be forced to deal with this.