What is golfers elbow?
Golfers elbow is a pain on the inside of your elbow affecting the flexor tendons that flex your wrist, hand and fingers and attaches to the inside of your elbow. We used to think it was caused by an inflammation of the tendon which links the muscle to the bone. However, it is really a ‘tendinopathy’ with the tendon struggling to cope with the forces put through it because its structure has become weakened.
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!
Improve your golf swing and get rid of 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 loves helping golfers recover from injury. Dave shares his knowledge about research on elbow injuries in golfers and best practice for getting them better.
Why amateur players get more elbow pain than professionals
Elbow injuries account for up to 15% of chronic golf injuries in professionals and up to a massive 30% in amateurs! This is usually because 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 the elbow pain known as golfer’s elbow.
Professionals, on the other hand, tend to be looser in their hips, trunk and shoulders. They 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 Golfer’s Elbow (where pain is felt on the inner point of the elbow) is less prevalent in golfers than Tennis Elbow (pain over the outer point of the elbow)!
- It is also surprising that a right handed golfer can suffer from it on either the left or right arm!
- Commonly the elbow pain starts within 1-2 days after hitting a lot of practice balls or playing on hard ground or mats.
- A sudden increase in playing or practice frequency or returning to intense practice after a few weeks off can also provoke its onset
- A change in your golf swing or grip can also cause the problem
How can Physiotherapy treatment help golfers elbow?
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.
- Resting an injured elbow may not be as effective as applying an optimal load to it. We use a process of 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). Then 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 affects the forces used as your gripping muscles attach at the elbow
- 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.
- A good warming up routine loads the elbow gradually before a game to fully prepare muscles and tendons.
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 complete a thorough assessment of your body as a whole. They will then tailor your programme specifically to address the imbalances they find.
If you are unfortunate enough to experience golfers elbow or other elbow pain and would like to book an appointment with one of our Physiotherapy team just call 020 8876 0286, email us here or pop into the clinic for a chat.
If you have enjoyed this article, you will also like this one on avoiding and treating back pain for golfers: