Golfers elbow. Sounds funny. But what is golfers elbow anyway? What causes golfers elbow and what can one do to treat this dysfunction?
Golfers elbow is a “catch-all” term that refers to any type of pain located at the medial epicondyle of the humerus bone. More specifically, it is the inflammation of the musculo-tendonous insertion onto the medial epicondyle of the humerus. Many times golfers elbow is caused by excessive (overuse) ball striking, elbow-forearm muscle weakness, and/or an improper golf swing which produces an excessively large divot.
Obviously if you are experiencing pain in this region, you should undergo an examination by your physician to determine the cause. Many times elbow pain is a symptom of a cervical and/or shoulder dysfunction; therefore, it is important to identify the cause of your elbow pain.
If the doctor feels that your elbow pain is coming from your flexor muscle group (golfers elbow), the first step in recovery is to decrease the inflammation located in your elbow. This is usually accomplished by taking the prescribed medication from your doctor, performing specific exercises for the muscles, and applying ice for 15 minutes to the crux of the elbow.
The “forearm stretch” is one of the most important exercises to improve the flexibility of the forearm flexor muscle group. Simply place the palm of your hand on a wall and slowly rotate your body away while slowly side bending your head away from the elbow being stretched. This stretch should be light in intensity. Perform this stretch three times, holding for 30 seconds each.
Note: If you have neck problems, please check with your doctor first.
Strengthening your elbow flexor muscles is imperative to overcoming golfers elbow. When suffering from golfers elbow (overuse-tendonitis), it is important to initially strengthen your elbow muscles with pain-free repetitions with minimal resistance. Many times I’ll start my patients with 2-3 sets of 3-5 minutes of specific exercise with no resistance (see exercises below). Then I’ll gradually work them up to 3 sets of 25 reps, then 3 sets of 20 reps, then 3 sets of 10 reps over a period of a few weeks with the resistance or weight increasing as the repetitions decrease (working out every other day). The amount of weight you use should not cause you any pain, but it should provide enough resistance to make the repetitions challenging.
Note: The following exercises should follow the above mentioned protocol of exercise dosage.
- The “open/close hands” drill is performed by fully opening and closing your fingers with your elbows extended. This should be executed as quickly as possible for 30 seconds. Attempt 3 sets of 30 seconds.
- “Wrist curls” are performed by using a dumbbell or any weighted object you desire. Bend your wrist up and down with the weight in your hand.
- The “supination/pronation” exercise recreates the rotational component of your golf swing as it relates to your elbow. Hold the hammer as shown. With your elbow in a bent position, slowly rotate your palm open and closed. Note: The heavier the head of the hammer and/or the further your hand is from the head, the more difficult the exercise becomes.
If you suffer from golfers elbow, do not fret! Not only will the above exercises relieve your elbow pain, but they will also enhance your golf game!
Warning! Please consult your physician before undertaking any stretching or exercise program.