Not So Common Elbow Pain

Elbow pain is an epidemic in the world today particularly with the number of hours spent on mobile devices and computers.

Beyond the workplace, elbow pain is also a widespread injury in the game of golf.

Today will discuss some not-so-common causes of elbow pain that are often missed when first looked at and, if left unresolved, can lead to the need for surgery.

Previously, we talked about the more common causes, which are typically going to come from your extensors on the lower arm (muscles that extend your finger up and back towards the back of your forearm) and some of your flexors (muscles that pull your fingers into a fist and bend your wrist forward) on the lower arm.

diagram of wrist extensors

The elbow is a joint that connects the upper arm to the lower arm. When treating an injury, we always want to look above and below the joint that is affected. We will explore some areas that cause elbow pain but are frequently missed.

The tricep muscle can be a significant cause of elbow pain. The other muscles that can contribute to elbow pain are subscapularis, which is in your armpit, and the infraspinatus, which is on the back of your shoulder.

As we go through the article, we will guide you through each of the releases, what to look for, and what you should be feeling.

diagram of infraspinatusThe first exercise addresses the infraspinatus, a muscle on the back of the shoulder blade. This area doesn’t commonly cause pain in the elbow but, it does certainly happen. For the exercise, you’ll need a softball or a lacrosse ball. Place the ball between your back and the wall, pull the arm nearest the ball across your chest.

 

Roll the ball up and down, looking for sore spots, and when you find one, put your arm through its range of motion to massage the muscle with the ball.

The next exercise works on the subscapularis, which is in your armpit, between your pec and lat. For this exercise, you’ll need a softball (a lacrosse ball is usually too small) and a yoga block (if you don’t have a yoga block, a textbook or anything firm that elevates you off the ground will work just as well). Lay on the floor on your side and place the ball in your armpit and lower it onto the yoga block. Roll the ball around until you’re sure it’s over your subscapularis (again, located between your pec and lat) and then raise and lower your arm.       image of subscapularus

The final exercise addresses the tricep. You will want a softball or a lacrosse ball (a lacrosse balimage of tricepsl is better as it’s smaller). Sit down in a chair next to a table and place the ball on the table (you may want to put a yoga block or a substitute on the table depending on the height). Next, put your tricep down on top of the ball.

Roll the ball around until you find a sore spot, then put your elbow through its range of motion while pressing down on the ball with your arm.

To recap, the three muscles we discussed are the infraspinatus, which is on the back of your shoulder, your subscapularis, which is in your armpit, and your tricep. You may be able to help fix your elbow pain by releasing one of these three areas. Of course, these are less common causes of elbow pain so that they won’t work for everyone, but it’s important to know what to do when the more common fixes fail.

Hopefully, this helps, and as always, remember to remember to swing faster, play better, and hurt less.

Chris Finn
MSPT,CSCS
Owner, Par4Success

"Par4Success is the best at what they do and I recommend them without hesitation. When lessons aren't paying off, the missing connection is, "Can your body perform the necessary motion to improve your golf game?"

Karl Kimball, Director of Golf Hillandale Golf Course

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