My golf wish for the New Year: less pain
Middle age is starting to take its toll on my golf game. Rare are the days now where I want to play more than 18.
In the past year, I’ve played with a pinched nerve and a pretty good case of tendonitis in the left elbow. I’m pretty much over the pinched nerve, but the tendonitis has been an ongoing problem. The only upside: It’s a built-in excuse when I play lousy.
A little while back I received an apparatus called the Xtensor, which is supposed to help, among other things, prevent or rehabilitate tendonitis. It was invented by a personal trainer who worked with a variety of athletes. At least one top hand and upper limb surgeon has been using it with his patients. And although there haven’t been any clinical trials yet, he’s been encouraged by the results.
Elbow tendonitis for golfers can have a number of causes, but one theory is that the gripping and squeezing motion, perhaps combined with the shock of impact, causes the tendons in the affected area to become inflamed. And while there are exercises and motions that strengthen flexor muscles in the palm and wrist, we generally do very little to strengthen the opposite muscles, the extensor muscles of the fingers and wrist.
The Xtensor balances the motion by working on the tendons to the muscles that open the hands. It has bands that connect to the fingers, providing gentle resistance to the fingers as you extend them. The theory is that by using the Xtensor, patients can improve muscle balance and maximize blood flow to muscles and tendons, which should help prevent tendonitis or help you heal if you have it.
Dr. Alejandro Badia of the Badia Hand to Shoulder Center in Doral, Fla., says the Xtensor is the first product to come along that provides training of the extensor muscles and tendons. He says that improving blood flow and strength in the muscles that extend the fingers and wrist not only improves endurance and function, but can minimize pain and help prevent and rehabilitate conditions such as tendonitis in the wrist and elbow.
He also shared a few more thoughts that might surprise you.
First, certain people and athletes seem predisposed to developing these problems. Some people can play golf everyday and never have a problem with tendonitis; others can play once or week or hardly at all and develop golfer’s or tennis elbow.
Secondly, the terms golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow are actually misleading. “I’ve found that most of the time golfers have tennis elbow,” said Badia, who has operated on and worked with many top athletes, including pro football player Terrell Owens. “Many tennis players have golfer’s elbow.”
Tennis elbow affects the outer part of the elbow and golfer’s elbow is the inside part. Many golfers develop tendonitis on the outside part of the lead elbow and tennis players often injure the inside part of the elbow of the arm they use for forehands.
Bahia also doesn’t necessarily recommend the braces that many people wear for elbow tendonitis. The theory, he says, is that braces transfer the origin point of the tendon, but he has found that many patients, including him, have found little relief from braces.
In some cases, surgery is required, and there is a new minimally invasive technique that Badia has been using with success. It’s called the topaz technique. “Which is what I use on the patients with failed conservative treatment,” said Badia.
The topaz technique involves using a radio frequency ? almost like burning – through a small incision to create scar tissue and essentially rebuild the origin point of the tendon. I may revisit this topic with Dr. Badia as we get into the golf season a little more.
In the meantime, if you have chronic golfer’s or tennis elbow, don’t ignore it. There are treatments available. And you might want to give the Xtensor a try. I’m going to give it a whirl. For more information, check it out at theXtensor.com.
|« Dreaming of golf in Hawaii||A break from the Tiger Woods saga: Francoeur's cool golf trip to Scotland »|