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Physical Therapy for Pitcher's Elbow: Throwing Injuries Among Athletes

Physical Therapy for Pitcher's Elbow: Throwing Injuries Among Athletes

Pitcher’s elbow, commonly known as Little League Elbow, occurs due to extreme throwing motions utilized in certain sports. Health professionals categorize it as an “overuse syndrome” in baseball and softball players between the ages of 11 and 15 years who are in the development phases of quick growth. Pitcher’s elbow triggers pain and interferes with normal joint range of motion. Rest and noninvasive therapy, such as physical therapy, are effective for treating the majority of pitcher’s elbow cases. However, if left untreated, this injury can result in serious complications requiring surgery. Therefore, it’s important to seek medical attention if you think you might be suffering with this injury.  

Cause of Pitcher’s Elbow

Pitcher’s elbow happens in athletes who engage in sports that require repetitive throwing, such as baseball. It most commonly develops in pitchers, but it may also affect players that play other positions such catchers, outfielders, and infielders, and can also occur in athletes that participate in other sports, such as football and tennis.

Pitcher’s elbow develops when recurrent throwing exerts an extreme pressure on the tendons and ligaments of the elbow. The fast and strong repetitive movements may result in stretching, tearing, or pulling of ligaments and tendons away from the bone. Torn ligaments can affect normal bone development and lead to deformity, while severe strains may cause bones to slam together, resulting in cartilage or bone fracture, which may lead to a condition known as osteochondrosis dissecans.

Pitcher’s elbow is particularly worrying in kids and teenagers because their bones are still developing, and injuries can interfere with the normal growth process. Furthermore, their developing skeletal systems may not be able to endure the pressures of competitive sports.

Physical Therapy for Pitcher’s Elbow

Before recommending physical therapy treatments, your doctor will perform a few tests to rule out other conditions and to diagnose pitcher’s elbow. Working with a physical therapist is the bestway to recover quickly from this condition and continue polishing your sports skills.

Rest is the first step towardtreating pitcher’s elbow. Your physical therapist will create a rehabilitation program to help you recover from pain and return to your favorite sport safely. They will create an individualized return-to-throwing treatment program to help you transition from your rest stage to a slow and steady reintroduction of throwing activities in order to prevent another injury.

Here are effective physical therapy treatments that your physical therapist may recommend to help manage your injury

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

Your physical therapy will start with a thorough physical examination of the injured area including joint range of motion testing of the shoulder and elbow. This is because pitcher’s elbow often results in inflammation, leading to joint stiffness and decreased range of motion of the shoulder. Additionally, awkward movement of your throwing shoulder may also exert pressure on the elbow resulting in elbow symptoms. Your physical therapist will advise you on specific range of motion exercises for your shoulder and elbow to maximize movement in these joints.

Muscles surrounding your shoulder, elbow, and upper back work hand-in-hand to promote normal, harmonized upper-body movement. This harmonized motion comes in handy during throwing. Thus, ensuring that all of the upper-body muscles are strong promotes efficient movement of the joints in your shoulder and elbow. Your physical therapist will therefore recommend exercises targeted to strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder.

Ice Therapy and Compression

For decades, ice has been an effective treatment option for pitching arm soreness due to its ability to reduce inflammation. Application of ice on the affected elbow and upper arm for 10 to 15 minutes after throwing, and as required afterward, is often advised to manage symptoms of pitcher’s elbow.  

Compressing the sore or painful arm can also help to speed up healing, particularly if your arm is swollen. Find an ACE bandage or compression stocking that can fit on your upper arm perfectly. Consult with your physical therapist to determine the best bandage for your particular needs.

Functional Training

Children and teenagers develop pitcher’s elbow when they are trying to learn how to tailor their movements to a developing body. Incorrect coordination can exert unnecessary pressure on the elbow and shoulder. Over time, these incorrect movement patterns can lead to pain in the body. Your physical therapist will evaluate your movement quality and train you to function optimally, helping you to attain a throwing motion that is pain-free.  

Conclusion

Pitcher’s elbow can often be a frustrating injury for athletes to deal with that can lead to serious complications if left untreated. The physical therapists at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation can help to guide your rehabilitation and get you back to your preferred sport as quickly and as safely as possible. 

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