Golfer’s Elbow is a common injury that can strike more than just golfers

golfers elbow

The golf swing is a full body movement that requires muscle coordination, strength and joint mobility. If one part of the system breaks down, it can cause a ripple effect to other areas of the body. One common injury is called golfers elbow, aka “medial epicondylitis,” which occurs when there is a repetitive use over time of the muscles on the inside of your forearm.

These muscles attach at the bony portion of the inside of your elbow through a common tendon and perform wrist flexion, forearm rotation and gripping motions. Because this tendon crosses two joints that are at the elbow it is more susceptible to injury.

Golfers elbow can be either acute or chronic depending on its cause. Acute golfer’s elbow is due to repeated stress to healthy tissues, which leads to an inflammatory response.

Chronic golfers elbow is instead the result of wear and tear that leads to tissue degeneration, changes in the cells of the tendons around the elbow and is not due to an active inflammatory process.

Symptoms of golfers elbow can include pain at the medial elbow that may or may not spread down the forearm, elbow stiffness, and muscle weakness with wrist movements and gripping.

The golf swing is a big cause of elbow pain, but these symptoms are not just limited to golfers. Sports that include repetitive wrist/elbow motions (tennis, baseball, football) and even daily activities (painting, cooking, computer work) can also be risk factors. So while it is commonly known as “golfer’s” elbow, it can actually occur from many other repeated activities.

Seeking treatment early can decrease re-occurrence and prevent pain from turning into a chronic issue that will take longer to resolve.

Your physical therapist will do a full assessment to determine the primary dysfunctions that are contributing to your pain. Initial treatment will include pain management and restoring normal range of motion before progressing to strengthening/motor control and finally sport-specific training.

Assessing equipment choice and golf swing mechanics are also important to avoid reoccurrence of injury as well as prevent other injuries. Added bonus – you might take a few strokes off your golf game!

Your risk of developing injuries like golfers elbow can be identified with preventative movement screening. So, you don’t have to wait for pain to tell you there is a problem. Skilled movement specialists are trained to identify the patterns that lead to a vast majority of musculoskeletal injuries. In fact, the most common injuries that plague golfers are a result of poor movement patterns for months or even years prior to the tissues failing. Preventative movement screening not only identifies tissues at risk, but we will teach you how to improve the efficiency of your body to manage the forces incurred during the golf swing and all other aspects of your life.

Once we improve how your body moves, we’ll work with your golf pro to integrate newly acquired skills into your golf swing. This collaborative approach is the most effective way to change your game and keep you playing well for life.

Article by Jenna Stones, DPT. Jenna is a physical therapist and movement specialist at CORE Strategies Physical Therapy, Sport Performance & Medical Fitness in Overland Park.  The CORE team specializes in rehabilitation and performance training for clients of all ages and activity levels.  To learn more about CORE’s sport specific programs visit www.coreptkc.com.  Contact Jenna at jenna@coreptkc.com.

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