There’s a better way to deal with golfer’s elbow than popping ibuprofen or using ice. Kelly Starrett shares some proven techniques that will help treat golfer’s elbow and prevent it from starting in the first place.
What Causes Golfer’s Elbow?
Pain on the inside of the elbow is a common problem for many golfers. The contact and force made with the ball is ostensibly a small car accident in your elbow. Now clearly this didn’t happen the very first time you hit the ball, so what happened? The problem begins on the 19th hole. You finished the round, put the clubs back in the car, shut the trunk, and go about your daily life. At that moment, a basic adaptation error has occured- you’re not decongesting the tissues from the stress that you engage in from a normal round of golf. The goal is to remove the congestion so the localized swelling doesn’t accumulate too significantly, leading to the very painful condition of golfer’s elbow.
The 3 Methods from Kelly Starrett
Strategy #1: Desensitize the area
Using IASTM, assisted soft tissue mobilization, the first step is to desensitize the area. You can use either a scraping tool or a butter knife to perform the movement. Scrape the area by placing your tool at a 45-degree angle with your skin. If you’re using a knife, make sure the back side or handle makes contact with the skin. A little lotion may help make the exercise more comfortable, but it’s not required. Scrape the tool down your arm for 30 seconds, then scrape the up for 30 seconds. By this point, your skin will be a bright pink. This means that blood flow to the area has increased. Doing this mobilization exercise 1-2 times per day can make a big difference in telling your brain that this is not a threat, and more importantly in bringing more nutrients into the area.
Strategy #2: Dynamic warm up
Getting prepped to play is key. When you get to the course, time can be a little bit constrained. Try to get your muscles prepped before you leave home, then you’ll be ready to go as soon as you arrive. Walking on the course will bring up your core temperature and increase blood flow to muscles. But sometimes the smaller joints like the elbow are lost in that common warm up cycle. Kelly’s suggests a dynamic warm up will create some easy motion with a little bit of resistance.
Grab a bungee cord, large rubber band, or even some Theraband. Take the rubberband and place it around the back of your neck. Grab the cord with both hands and pull down towards the ground. Repeat 100 times. Next, step on the band with your feet and grab with each hand for some simple bicep curls. Do 100 bicep curls to finish up the routine. This dynamic warm up with better prepare your body to handle the micro trauma that comes with a round of golf. You’ll notice that you’re able to turn the ball, turn the club over, and generate some more force.
Strategy #3: Range of motion exercises
When your wrist and elbows are stiff, it puts additional load on the musculature and connective tissues. This exercise is designed to improve full rotation capacity of the wrist to elbow segment, which will lead to better compliance and ability through the tissue. Take a club and grip with palm down, keeping the club horizontal to the ground. You can modulate the resistance on the club by moving your hand grip position closer or farther away from the club head. Rotate the club and get your body comfortable with moving to the limits of its rotation. Do this 20-30 times. Then switch the direction of rotation and complete 20-30 more reps. Once that’s complete, grip the club with your palm up and complete the exercise again. Do some of these exercises with a straight arm and some with a bent arm.
These 3 strategies can help effectively treat and address golfer’s elbow, but Kelly Starrett also recommends using a Marc Pro. It’s one of his favorite tools that can address the tissue congestion at a cellular level. It allows you to pump out congestion and swelling, and bring the blood flow and hydration to the tissues. This can be done before and after a round to make sure golfer’s elbow isn’t a part of your game.