Have you had to think about canceling a round of golf or a game of tennis because your elbow hurt? It's a frustrating, and all-too-familiar setback faced by amateur and professional players alike. Seems to go with the territory.

Golf and tennis are terrific pastimes, healthful and fulfilling for players of all ages. The common injuries from these sports are, thankfully, not generally too serious. Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) and golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis) involve inflammation of the elbow tendons. The familiar symptoms are pain, difficulty gripping, and difficulty extending the forearm.   

It's no surprise that the resulting symptoms make it tough to get back on the course or the court. These conditions result from the particular stresses golf and tennis put on elbow tendons. Naturally, the motions that caused the injury hurt when they’re repeated.

As a matter of fact, the same injury can be caused by household projects, such as painting, hammering, and raking – anything involving repetitive extension and flexion of the elbow against resistance. In my practice, I often see cases of tennis/golfer's elbow in people who have never gripped a racquet or set foot on a golf course.

Conventional management of these elbow conditions includes rest, at a minimum. Treatment options progress through anti-inflammatory medications, physiotherapy, and steroid injections. The goals of treatment are to reduce discomfort while encouraging healing of the tiny tears in the affected tendons.

Acupuncture, alone and in conjunction with conventional therapies, has been shown to be effective in promoting recovery. In addition to providing natural pain relief, acupuncture encourages healing by improving general circulation. It also increases concentrations of inflammation-fighting white blood cells. Injuries of this type are often accompanied by hypertonicity, tension, and spasms in the connected muscles. Acupuncture relieves this ongoing stress on the injured tendons.

Giving up tennis or golf because of the signature elbow injury is almost unthinkable to an enthusiast, except maybe as a last resort. Those of us who sustain the injury in less athletic ways shouldn’t have to accept prolonged discomfort or activity limitation, either. Prompt evaluation and effective intervention can keep us in action and comfortable for many years. Pro golfers like Michele Wie and Fred Couples, and tennis stars such as Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis have relied on acupuncture to stay in the game. So can you. Robert Youngs, the Century City, Los Angeles Acupuncturist has many years of experience. 

Robert Youngs