Eccentric exercise cured my golfers elbow

I'm a fairly accomplished rockclimber that suffered three years (between 2005 and 2008) of golfers elbow (or medial epicondylitis). I went through all the usual therapies; ice, rest (months), corticosteroid injections, and none of them helped. At a certain point even simple things like washing my hair, or closing a car door hurt. I dreaded that I would have to give up my sport. After having been told by an orthopedic surgeon that even surgery would probably not really help (only 50% chance of success), I was quite desperate. One last bout of searching the internet found some promising links (below) on successful use of eccentric exercise with professional soccer players with Achilles and patella tendon injuries.

I managed to translate their work to an effective program for my elbow; the results were quite spectacular. I started in January 2008 and I was mostly healed in about 4 weeks (no more pain in daily life activities), and could sport (climb) again at my maximum level after some 4 months. The effect of the exercise is quick; after two weeks you'll start seeing results, after 4 weeks the pain has mostly gone. I kept doing the exercise until autumn 2008 to get rid of the final pain twinges that occurred at some angles of the elbow. I have been pain free since late 2008.

I've created this page for fellow sufferers, that have the discipline to exercise a few times a day for a few minutes to cure their epicondylitis; I hope it's as effective for you as it has been for me. I've done these exercises in the first half of 2008, and my elbow has been healthy since then. I'm climbing harder than ever.
Bart van Deenen
Update: since I created this site in january 2011, It has been copied (ukclimbing.com) and translated in Spanish, Italian, Ukranian and Russian. I've received dozens of emails of people that are doing the same exercises, and I'm happy to hear that quite a few of them are having good results. Here are some email excerpts:

David (jun. 2018)
Hi Bart, I just wanted to let you know that after three or four months of golfers elbow and the frustation of being unable to keep doing push-ups, pull-ups or any exercise that required some degree of elbow implication, I'm almost fully healed thanks to your eccentric exercise.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to share this exercise.


Filip (nov. 2015)
I've had trouble with golfer's elbow for about 5 month after a stupid mistake I made during powerlifting. 
Tried rest, medication, you name it.. No results. Stumbled upon your program a few weeks ago 
and wanted to try it. Felt no results after the first two weeks, but soon after that the pain started
to fade away. Barely feel any pain at all now. Thank you so much!

Miki (may. 2015)
Este video me ha salvado la vida, yo tenia en un brazo codo tenista y en el otro tenia codo de golfista. La única cosa que yo hice diferente es aguantar unos segundos cuando he llegado al final de la bajada del peso, asi consigo que el tendón se estire al máximo.

Colin (jan 2015)
I had suffered medial and lateral for years. Went through all the usual treatments and nothing worked. Every time I started training for climbing the elbow tendonitis would return, with the associated debilitating pain.
I read your article and within 2-3 weeks of performing the exercises, I could feel real improvement. I would repeat the exercises without weights, several times a day in sets of 30 and use weights in the morning and at night. After 6-8 weeks I was pain free.
I have been back at the climbing wall, with no problems and spent a few days sport climbing in Spain, which was a shock to the body and really trashed my arms but with no twinges from my elbows.

Quim (aug. 2014) (on the spanish site. I'm learning Spanish at the moment :-) )

Hola, despues de mucho tiempo sufriendo de epicondilitis y epitrocleitis en ambos codos, puedo decir que gracias a ti he encontrado la solucion. He probado de todo, he dejado de entrenar, he ido al fisio, he probado cremas y cremas y coderas de todo tipo.
Ha sido realizar estos ejercicios y tal como dices se nota una mejora impresionante. Muchas gracias, te estoy muy agradecido.


Alex (nov. 2014)
thank's a lot for the information about healing golfers elbow! It really helped me A LOT!
I got golfers elbow during last winter's training within campus board, rings, bouldering etc. and had to stop training for about half a year. Instead I did this exercise every day and climbed moderate routes outdoors until July. After this recovery I could start training again just before a two months Norway trip. There I climbed without pain again and managed to send my hardest route after 14 years of climbing now.
Right now I can train hard again and I'm more motivated then ever before. Sometimes my ellbow still hurts a bit, but it seems to be under control.

Albert (jan. 2014)
I contacted you a few years ago regarding golfer's elbow exercises, and your exercises were awesome and got me back fast.
I have now developed tennis elbow on outside of my right elbow (did a lot of indoor climbing in Dec/Jan, plus I got a fingerboard). Though not excruciating, it is literally 'a pain'. Do your exercises work for tennis elbow, too? Or do you have something else you recommend? I come to you because your exercises WORKED.
He found the bit on tennis elbow a few minutes later :-)

Bruce  (june 2013):
I'd been suffering from climbing induced tennis elbow for some time. I've been doing your exercises for about 2 months now and as you say, after a few weeks the daily pain stops and after about a month the pain experienced when climbing goes too. My system has been a bit more crude and less calibrated than yours - simply an adapted bar bell but I've been very careful to increase the weight and leverage slowly.  What's particularly great is that there's been no drugs or injections required.

Scott T. (feb 2013): (bold mine)

I want to thank you for posting your video and rehab prescription for golfer’s elbow.  I had been dealing with this ailment for several years, as the result of weight training and I think in particular, kipping pull ups from Crossfit workouts.  I'm not a rock climber, but I have a good friend who climbs and I spoke with him about it.  His response was pretty discouraging: “if you are in your mid to late thirties and you get bad golfer’s elbow, you will probably deal with it for the rest of your life.”  I was totally discouraged.  I had to pretty much stop lifting weights.  The pain finally reduced and then went away after about a year of no training.  I started lifting weights again and it came right back.  Again, I was completely discouraged.  I found your video on in the internet and followed your prescription exactly as outlined.  Amazingly, and I mean amazingly, it worked in a matter of weeks.  Within 3 weeks I was feeling better and within 3 months my pain had completely disappeared.  I’m back to lifting weights now with no pain.  Occasionally, I will do a couple of sets of the exercise for maintenance, but that’s it and pretty rare.

Albert.
Hi Bart.  We communicated four weeks ago regarding the elbow exercise that I started doing, and I wanted to give an update. Good news: The exercise is helping my right elbow tremendously.  I can't believe how much it has improved in four weeks.  I will continue with the exercises faithfully and am confident they will help me heal and get stronger.  It's not perfect, but it's definitely getting better, and I'm still climbing 3 days/week, up to V3/5.11 now.

Enrico (mountain guide Dolomites, Italy) He translated my site in Italian.
I found your article and video online and it help me a lot to resolve my elbow’s problem.  

Jamie
Thanks for this method, it has helped me enormously. I’ve had golfers elbow since September 2010. It never very severe but always lingering in the ….

Leon (Dutch) positive results, very happy, quick improvement
Ik heb afgelopen weken trouw je oefeningen gedaan en met resultaat!
De klachten in mijn elleboog werden snel beter, echt heel fijn.
Na een week of twee ben ik een keer wat te enthousiast omhoog gegaan in gewicht, waardoor ik even terugviel in het herstel. Maar door een stapje terug te nemen ging dat ook snel weer beter.

Anne-Arjen (Dutch) (is euphoric)
Ik ben nu bijna 2 weken bezig met de oefening, zowel rechts- als links om. En ik moet zeggen, kan het bijna niet geloven, ben dus gematigd optimistisch, doch euforisch maar heb sterk het idee dat deze oefening gaat werken voor mijn elleboog. Heb de afgelopen 3 jaar meer dan 4000,- uitgegeven en nu zal (#$%^& / blijken dat een oud stuk pvc buis en een 530 gr. wiellager het probleem zal oplossen.

Video here




Equipment


You need:
  • a bit of broomstick.
  • a 0.5kg, 1kg and 2kg weight. Sports store.
  • 2 weight clamps. Sports store.
I've marked the stick with a cm. scale, starting at 9cm on the nearest clamp.

The intensity of the training is defined by the multiplication of the weight and the distance from your hand to the weight: in this example: 0.5kg * 22cm = 11. If you move your hand to 25cm on the scale, the exercise increases to (25*0.5) = 12.5, so that is already 14% more. Increase the centimeters slowly to increase the intensity of your training!

How to train

Start with a low weight and a short distance (for me it was 0.5kg and 15cm). The exercise must hurt, but not so much that your elbow hurts more after the exercise is over. Do 10 or 20 repetitions a few times a day. Increase the stick distance (and eventually the weight) as needed. Make sure that when you increase the weight, you decrease the distance, so that the intensity stays more or less the same.
I found that immediately after the exercise the elbow felt better, sort of warm and numb.
You can keep doing sports during the eccentric training period, just let the pain decide how much you can do.

Progression

After 2 weeks I started noticing real every day improvements, where pain for typical household chores would be gone.
I increased the intensity every day or so, and after 4 weeks most of the every day pains were gone.
Eventually I was working with 3kg at 25cm (intensity 75), to get rid of the last pains that I only experienced with overhanging climbing.
It took months for all the pain at every angle of the elbow to disappear. At the end I did the exercise with a really bent elbow (no longer resting the hand on the knee) because that was the only elbow angle where I still felt pain.

Tennis elbow

My wife had problems with a tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), and did the same exercise in reverse, i.e. lower the weight on the stick inwards instead of outwards. The same rules apply and it's just as effective.


Links

These links set me on the trail of eccentric exercise.
  • Sportklimtraining.nl
    This Dutch language site by Mattijs Abeelen has a section on 'training of tendons'. The comments section have my original comments while I was doing the exercises. 

Now

All this exercise took place in early 2008. I've been climbing hard since then, and I am currently climbing better than ever (7b redpoint). My elbow is still fine.

feedback. mailto:eccentric.bart@gmail.com I'm on an extended rockclimbing trip at the moment, and will often not reply very quickly, because I don't have internet access.

May 2011: I have mails from dozens people that are doing the exercise. Of five of them, I know they have very positive results, one is euphoric having gone through pretty much the same non-working "treatments" that I did. This article has been copied to UKClimbing.com, the climbing academy, fightgravity.nl, the site of the Dolomites Mountain Guides, a Slovenian sports site and several sites for bouldering, hillwalking, kayaking. 

Comments