Do you want to improve your golf swing and get rid of that niggling elbow pain for good?
Dave Burnett is one of our Physiotherapists and he is a Titleist accredited Golf Rehab Physiotherapist. He is also a very keen golfer and he loves helping golfers recover from injury. Dave shares his knowledge of what the research tells us about elbow injuries in golfers and best practice for getting it better.
Elbow injuries account for up to 15% of chronic golf injuries in professionals and up to a massive 30% in amateurs! Why is this you might ask? Read on to find out why…
Why amateur players get more elbow pain than professionals
It is thought that restrictions in flexibility and range of movement around your hips, trunk and shoulders mean that the club head speed in amateurs is generated more by the wrists and elbows. This extra stress on the elbows can cause elbow pain.
Professionals, on the other hand, tend to be looser in their hips, trunk and shoulders so are able to generate forces from the ground up that are shared between all the joints of their body and the stresses are not concentrated in one area.
It is therefore important to consider your swing technique and your flexibility and strength through your whole body. This is something that our Sports Rehab Physiotherapists are trained to assess and treat. We are movement specialists and analysing technique and correcting weaknesses is all part of our role.
6 common factors of elbow pain in Golfers
- Surprisingly Tennis Elbow (pain over the outer point of the elbow) is more prevalent in golfers than Golfer’s Elbow (where pain is felt on the inner point of the elbow)!
- It is also surprising to note that it can be left or right sided for a right handed player!
- Commonly the pain starts within 1-2 days after hitting a lot of practice balls or playing on hard ground or mats.
- It can also be caused by a sudden increase in playing or practice frequency
- Returning to intense practice after a few weeks off can also provoke its onset
- It can also be related to a change in swing or grip
So what exactly is Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow?
In years gone by we thought that these conditions were a ‘tendinitis’ – in other words an inflammation of the tendon which links the muscle to the bone. This may still be the case at early onset but once the condition has become chronic we now understand that it is really a ‘tendinopathy’. This means that the tendon is struggling to cope with the forces put through it because its structure has become weakened.
Tennis elbow affects the extensor tendons that extend your wrist, hand and fingers and the tendons of these muscles combine to form one tendon that attaches to the outside of your elbow.
Golfer’s elbow affects the flexor tendons that flex your wrist, hand and fingers and the tendons of these muscles combine into one tendon that attaches to the inside of your elbow.
The good news is that although these problems can be rather persistent there are lots of things we can do to help and it is usually possible to get rid of it completely if you follow our physio’s advice!
How can Physiotherapy treatment help?
In the early stages:
- In the early stages when it’s very painful we often use taping or a brace/clasp round the elbow to offload the painful tendon.
- We no longer use PRICE – Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation to help the early healing process, but now we use POLICE – Protection, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
As pain settles:
- Exercises are the primary treatment for golfer’s and tennis elbow. We show you how to gradually load the tendon to strengthen it. This starts with isometric exercises (working the muscle without moving the joint), through to isotonic exercises (where we work the muscle through joint movement) and finally to speed work.
- Sometimes we find the elbow joint is stiff and needs loosening up with gentle manipulation
- We often treat the soft tissues with massage techniques
Vital aspects for preventing a recurrence of the problem:
- Assessing and working on restrictions in flexibility through the ankles, knees, hips, trunk, spine and shoulders
- Assessing and working on strength through the same chain and especially addressing weakness of your core muscles
- Considering the grip width of the club which can affect the forces used as your gripping muscles attach at the elbow pain point
- Considering the stiffness of the shaft of the club – this can affect the forces transferred through the elbow. The stiffer the club the more force taken and the more flexible the club shaft the more forgiving on your elbow joint.
- Giving advice on warming up routine in order to make sure that loading of the elbow is gradually applied before a game and the muscles and tendons are fully prepared.
Without addressing these longer term issues elbow pain very often recurs so there are no short cuts to getting it completely resolved. Clients have a tendency to tail off their rehab once the pain is more under control. But the really important part is addressing the weaknesses and restrictions through the body that set professionals apart from amateurs. So completing a full rehab programme is essential. Our Physiotherapists will tailor your programme specifically to address the imbalances they find when they have completed a thorough assessment of your body as a whole.
If you are unfortunate enough to experience elbow pain and would like to book an appointment with one of our Physiotherapy team just call 0203 916 0286, email us here or pop into the clinic for a chat.
If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to read more on golfing injuries click on the links below: