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Golfer's Elbow: Exercises for Treatment and Prevention

Golfer's Elbow: Exercises for Treatment and Prevention

Do you frequently hit the links or play catch with your family? These activities may contribute to golfer's elbow, an injury that causes pain in your inner elbow. Here, our Orleans physiotherapists explain how they can help with your golfer's elbow, including treatments to aid your recovery and how to prevent this condition in the future. 

Sometimes called golfer's elbow or thrower's elbow, this condition develops when the tendons on the inner part of your elbow become inflamed or irritated through repeated use or strain.

Despite its name, this condition can be caused by repetitive motion as part of many more activities than just throwing a ball or swinging a golf club. Day-to-day activities like typing at your computer or performing yard work may be enough to cause this condition to begin to develop in your elbows, causing pain and discomfort. 

What is golfer's elbow?

As we mentioned above, golfer's elbow is a painful condition that is caused by damage or inflammation to the tendons running along your inner elbow - the side you fold your arm towards when you bend it.

The tendons attach to the tissues of your forearm, your upper arm and your elbow and, when you swing your join closed, they allow you to do so by engaging the muscles on either side of this joint. Link many injuries to your tendons, golfer's elbow occurs when your tendon becomes inflamed by repetitive strain (such as from swinging a golf club) over time. 

By doing a motion like swinging a golf club of throwing a ball often, you are subjecting your tendons to repeated strain that may build up over time into a more serious injury that begins to cause weakness in the arm, discomfort and pain. 

Without treatment, these forces can even cause the tendon to tear away from the bone!

Golfer's elbow common causes the following symptoms:

  • Stiffness in the elbow
  • Tenderness and swelling along the inside of the forearm
  • Pain running along the forearm with any wrist, elbow or hand movements
  • Weakness in the hand and forearm when gripping objects

What factors can contribute to golfer's elbow?

Since each person and their activities are different, each case will look a bit different. This may be influenced by the specific activity that has contributed to the development of this injury, including playing golf, work as a plumber, raking the yard, or even using a keyboard without proper consideration for ergonomics.

Outside of the activities that causes you to develop golfer's elbow, the following are two of the most common contributing factors to developing this condition:

  • Repetitive Motion - Tendons and other connective tissues will generally either break or sustain damage when they either are placed under a great deal of force or impact, or when they undergo the same small force or impact repeatedly over long periods of time, weakening them. The latter is more common, and because of this, people who play sports, work or participate in hobbies that require repetitive small strains on their elbows will be more likely to develop golfer's elbow.
  • Muscle Tightness - The tendons affected by golfer's elbow are directly attached to the muscles on either side of your elbow, tightness in the surrounding muscles and joints, such as the shoulder, forearms or wrists, may all place greater strain on your elbows and contribute to you straining your tendons to the point where they become injured and cause pain.

What physiotherapy treatments are recommended for golfer's elbow?

As with may connective tissue injuries, manual therapy, hot and cold therapy, as well as physical supports such as braces are often a go-to treatment recommended by physiotherapists to start right away and help alleviate pain. 

After these passive physiotherapy treatments have been pursued, generally a physiotherapist will prescribe an assortment of exercises for clients suffering from golfer's elbow. These exercises will be designed to focus on the strenth and mobility of your injured elbow as well as alleviating any pain you may be feeling. This applies both to your elbow itself as well as the surrounding muscles.

Since your arms works as a collective unit - with each muscle working with your tendons - to do actions like bending your elbow, it's important to make sure your injured elbow is properly supported and is able to heal.

Some of the most common physiotherapy exercises recommended for golfer's elbow include wrist mobility and strengthening exercises. Often golfer's elbow may have developed because your elbow is doing more work than it should to accommodate for loss of strength and mobility in your wrist. Because of this, focusing on strengthening your wrist's ability to support your elbow is a common tactic to encourage recovery from this injury.

How can physiotherapy help to prevent golfer's elbow?

Physiotherapy, while it can help your body to recover from injuries like golfer's elbow, actually excels at preventing injuries or painful conditions altogether. 

Physiotherapists will target their prescribed exercises to the areas of your body that may be injured as well as providing support in your practice of activities such as golfing using safe and proper form. This way, you won't be placing undue strain on your body in the first place and may be able to prevent injury in the future.

Some of the most common ways that a physiotherapist may recommend that you prevent golfer's elbow include:

  • Slowing your golf swing to allow your elbow to absorb less shock
  • Performing exercises that strengthen the muscles of your forearms
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your activity
  • Using proper form in whatever activity you undertake to avoid overloading your muscles repeatedly

Before undertaking any exercises while experiencing golfer's elbow, you should always consult a physiotherapist. When suffering from a condition or injury, exercising the part of your body experiencing pain may just as easily make the injury worse as it could help to alleviate your pain and strengthen your body. 

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