After low back pain and shoulder pain, the third most common injury in golf is to the elbow, sometimes none as “golfer’s elbow”. Technically speaking, most elbow pain results from inflamed tendons (tendonitis). Tendon inflammation can occur to the inside and/or outside portions of the elbow. Right hand golfers often begin to experience pain on the inside of the right elbow and/or on the outside of the left elbow. Tendonitis in either elbow can be very painful and may prevent a golfer from playing until the problem is properly treated and completely resolved.
Golfer’s elbow is most often a chronic, “overuse injury” from a combination of poor golf swing mechanics, poor body posture, flexibility and/or strength coupled with hitting a lot of balls. This problem can also more acutely result from not warming up properly before practicing or playing, hitting “fat” shots, hitting off mats or hard turf (especially with harder cover range balls) or even from a recent change in equipment from flexible to stiffer shafts.
If you ever begin to experience early signs of elbow discomfort, you should contact your doctor immediately to have your symptoms properly diagnosed so treatment can begin as soon as possible. Treatment options range from oral anti-inflammatory medication, icing, physical therapy, various support braces, rest and, more recently, magnetic and far-infrared technology. Some worse cases require cortisone injections or even surgical intervention.
The typical time period for most elbow tendonitis to completely resolve when diagnosed quickly and treated properly can range from between two weeks to two months. If golfers wait too long before seeking professional medical help, however, the problem can become much worse, more difficult to treat and may take up to 4-6 months or longer to completely resolve.
To minimize the risk of ever experiencing golfer’s elbow, here are a few simple exercises you can try to get your wrists and forearms in the best possible shape for golf. The first two exercises are stretching exercises and should be done before and after practicing, playing and before and after the following strengthening exercises. The stretching exercises should be held for 20-30 seconds each and repeated 3-5 times for each technique. The two strengthening exercises should be done every other day for between 1-2 sets of 10 repetitions.
Wrist and Forearm Stretch
Sit or stand holding a club in front of your chest with both hands shoulder width apart and palms facing down (see picture #1). Keeping your elbows straight and fingers closed, bend your wrists down until you feel a comfortable stretch in the outside (lateral) portion of your forearm near the elbow (see picture #2). Then, repeat the same stretch holding the club with your palms facing up to stretch the inside (medial) portion of your forearm.
Wrist and Forearm Rotations
Sit or stand holding a club (start with a putter and gradually advance to a driver) with your normal “grip” on the club and the clubhead rotated to your right until it has reached the three o’clock position (see picture #3). Keeping your elbows bent to approximately 90°, slowly and under control, rotate the club to your left until the clubhead is now in the nine o’clock position (see picture #4). When you have mastered this exercise you’re your elbows bent, try the same exercise with your elbows straight.
Wrist and Forearm Waggles
Sit or stand holding a club (start with a putter and gradually advance to a driver) with your normal “grip” on the club. Keeping your elbows bent approximately 90°, begin the “waggle” strengthening exercise with your wrists uncocked so the head of the club is tipped down as far as your wrists will allow (see picture #5). Slowly and under control, raise the clubhead as far as possible by cocking your wrists (see picture #6). Hold this position for 2-3 seconds and then slowly lower the clubhead to the starting position. When you have mastered this exercise you’re your elbows bent, try the same exercise with your elbows straight.
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