A common source of pain for many disc golfers is in the elbow.  While golfers who throw predominately sidearm tend to experience elbow pain more often, it can happen to anyone.  And what’s causing the pain just isn’t limited to the elbow region. 

What’s the source of your pain?  Many times, it’s coming from your tendons.  

A muscle tendon is a thickening of connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. Think of the muscle like a car engine, and the tendon is the transmission. The muscle creates the power, while the tendon has to transmit that force to allow you to move a joint.

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Tendonitis is a painful condition that occurs in, or around tendons, as a response to overuse of the area. As it relates to disc golf, most players who are developing tendonitis will experience this in their shoulder, elbow or wrist of their throwing side. Ankle, knee and hip tendonitis are also possible due to the nature of the disc golf throw.

Recent research into the physical changes during tendonitis revealed that there is much less inflammation at the injured site as previously thought. The pain associated with tendonitis occurs due to the injured tissue becoming degraded in quality, less elastic, weakened and torn.

Being that tendonitis is less inflammatory as previously thought, the traditional approach of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), corticosteroid injections, bracing and complete rest are not addressing the true condition that is happening.

So, if the old approach is antiquated, what is the right approach?

The thinking behind manual therapy is to be able to fix as much as we can using our hands and our knowledge of the body’s systems.

Simply overriding the body’s natural healing response with chemicals to decrease an inflammatory reaction will never fully repair the actual injured tissue. The better approach is to work with the tissue to decrease tension, increase circulation, increase elasticity to the tissue, and increase strength and stability to the affected joint. This can be accomplished through a variety of techniques within manual therapy.

I specifically use Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation (IASTM), pinning and stretching, myofascial release, ultrasound and heat therapy, eccentric loading rehabilitation, and kinesiotaping. These techniques break up adhesions, increase circulation, lengthens and strengthens the tissue, and helps to regain the stability of that area.

There are times where a short break from the provocative activity, like disc golf, is warranted. Usually, however, prolonged rest and bracing leads to decreased strength and freedom of motion. I would rather someone slow down their mechanics, and start working on things within the sport that don’t irritate their tendonitis. Our thinking is to maintain movement while augmenting the healing process to return the patient to pre-injury status as soon as possible.

With any repetitive activity such as disc golf, there is a chance of these conditions reappearing. Having your specific case evaluated by a qualified manual therapist such as a Sports Chiropractor or Physical Therapist will make the difference.

Recognizing the early signs of injury, not playing through pain, and utilizing proper treatment and self-care will greatly minimize your down time and potential for chronic injury.


Dr. J. Branden Garland is an avid disc golfer, and he has treated at many major disc golf tournaments including Beaver State Fling and the World Championships in Portland. He is the owner of Oregon Sports and Family Chiropractic in Newberg, Oregon. You can find him at www.facebook.com/thediscdocs and www.oregonsportsandfamily.com.