Physical therapy with exercises that use a rubber bar effective for treating golfer’s elbow

Eccentric exercises can be performed at home without expensive equipment
Medial epicondylitis, often referred to as golfer’s elbow, is a painful condition that results from a golf swing or any other repetitive activity that aggravates the forearm muscles. Many treatments are available, such as injections, laser therapy and physical therapy, which can include a variety of interventions like massage, heat, ice and eccentric exercises. These eccentric exercises can be seen as the opposite force of many conventional exercises and are especially attractive because they can be done at home without any expensive equipment. They have been found to be effective for many other conditions, but evidence is lacking in their ability to treat golfer’s elbow. A study was therefore conducted in which eccentric exercises using a rubber bar were added to a standard physical therapy program.

Small group of patients undergoes treatment for average of six weeks
A group of 20 patients with golfer’s elbow who did not respond to previous treatments were selected to participate. Each patient received physical therapy treatment consisting of massage, ultrasound, heat, ice and an eccentric strengthening exercise for an average of six weeks. The eccentric exercise was performed using a rubber bar that patients were instructed to twist and hold for five seconds. Three sets of 15 repetitions were completed daily, and patients were given a thicker rubber bar with greater resistance if they no longer reported discomfort during the exercise. Patients were also instructed to perform these exercises at home, and continued to do so until symptoms were diminished or they were referred back to their doctor.

Patients report less disability after treatment program
Patients were evaluated after treatment with a questionnaire for disability of their arms, shoulders and hands. Results from the questionnaire showed that patients improved significantly and experienced a decrease in disability as a result of physical therapy. Based on these findings, it appears adding eccentric strengthening exercises using a rubber bar may be an effective way of treating golfer’s elbow that’s inexpensive and can be performed at home. Due to the fact that no control group was used and results were only evaluated in the short term, however, randomized trials of a large scale are needed to confirm these results.

Summarized by Greg Gargiulo
-As reported in the June ’14 edition of The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy