Bowling Elbow Pain Explained

What causes bowling elbow pain. Tendinitis or “Tennis Elbow” is one of the most common causes. Repetitive stresses placed on the same tendons over and over cause injury. It is a very painful injury and I can tell you, once you suffer this particular injury, you will not forget it. It is in most cases a persistent, nagging injury that is hard to completely eliminate. And once you have it, you will likely have additional episodes of bowling elbow pain.

What is Bowling Elbow Pain?


It can vary between just a dull ache, or a sudden and sharp pain. If it is a mild form, some rest for a few days or weeks can help to the point it disappears. A major episode can nag bowlers for months, years or the rest of their life. This is one injury you want to rest and not continue to try to perform. It will aggravate the issue.

Bowling, tennis, and golf, are repetitive sports that cause tendinitis. Stress tears are formed by repetition on the same tendons over and over again.Some of the repetitive strain cannot be totally avoided. However, there are some things that might help lessen the extent of the injury.

Talk to You Doctor

The first thing you need to do is talk to your doctor and get a qualified opinion about how serious your injury may be. You may have some tests done to see the extent of your injury. When your doctor tells you to stop bowling and rest the injury, do it!

I have suffered the same injury, and I was told the same thing. I took a full year off bowling, because mine was nagging me for years, and I wanted to clear it up, once and for all if possible.

Because mine was a chronic injury, a longer period of rest was recommended.My doctor recommended 3 to 6 months of completely resting those tendons.  I made the decision to take the entire year off. I followed a rehab program for about 8 week initially as well. It was the best decision I ever made.

Improper Bowling Technique Can Cause Bowling Elbow Pain


After speaking with other bowlers and coaches I found out that my bowling technique could be a cause as well. They told me that I had a specific problem with my bowling mechanics.

I did not keep my arm tucked in close to my body. In my approach,I got my elbow out too far from my body. And I did it much too often. Not only was it hurting my game, I was hurting myself doing it. This is putting too much strain on the elbow median tendons. I always had a sore elbow, and it never occurred to me that this could be the reason why.

Elbow Tendinitis Braces

When I did finally return to bowling,I wore an elbow tendinitis brace on my elbow. I still wear thatElbow Tendonitis Brace for Elbow pain brace every time I bowl to this day, as a preventive measure.

I also made a conscious effort to correct the defect in my arm swing that may have contributed to years of stress that was making my injury worse.

By keeping my elbow tucked in and close to my body as I delivered the ball,I reduced the strain on the elbow.

Now I do this much less often, and always support my elbow with a tendonitis brace.The combination of better form along with a brace has been the biggest help for me. My elbow issues are a now a thing of the past.

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Is Your Ball Too Heavy?

If this is a chronic reoccurring injury for you, then dropping to a lighter ball may help.It might just be the answer to relieve the pain. If you are using a 16lb ball, try using a 15lb ball for awhile until the pain has subsided.

A period of rest, is probably best at first, then gradually try to resume bowling, using a lighter weight ball. As you strength improves, you can go back to the heavier ball.

What Are Other Causes Bowling Elbow Pain?

Always have your equipment checked for proper fit anytime you experience pain. Maybe you need something adjusted.

Check Your Ball for the Correct Drilling:

If we have a span on our bowling ball that is not correct, it can lead to injuries like tendonitis in the elbow. If you just had a ball drilled for some reason, and your elbow begins to bother you, then common sense says, get the span checked for proper fit.

We tend to feel guilty if we are not bowling up to par, but maybe it isn’t our fault. Too much strain on the arm tendons can cause this as well.

Keep Your Body Limber by Stretching:

Proper stretching becomes more important as we age. A good warm-up routine before trying to bowl, or jog or any physical exercise is a good idea. Stretching is probably the mosElbow Pain Sometimes Requires MRI Testingt important thing we can do to help prevent all types of injuries, including tendinitis.

A cold muscle or tendon is not going to react well in any repetitive sport. Older muscles and tendons are a bit stiffer and are more prone to injury.

The repeated stress that is placed on our bodies, during our sport activities including bowling, tends to creep up on us over time.

Then, one eventful day it all comes back to haunt us as we try to use a cold muscle too quickly, and painful injury is the result.

Could we have prevented it?  Perhaps. Better conditioning with weight training and proper stretching could have prevented it.

Does Bowling Cause Tendinitis Injuries:

When we do the same motion, over and over again, we are asking the same muscles, tendons and ligaments to do the same task again and again.

As remarkable as our bodies are, they age and break-down. The older we get, the harder it is for our bodies to repair themselves, and eventually we have some issues.

Sometimes the tendons are injured after years of tiny tears that can  suddenly cause one major injury.Too much pressure applied suddenly causes tendons to fray and tear loose.

When we get older this happens more frequently because tendons are no longer as flexible as they once were.

Check Your Mechanics

A sore elbow in bowling is common because of repetitive tendinitis in the elbow. Improper technique could be the cause. This is a common problem with bowling.

When we incorrectly swing the ball with the elbow too far out from our side, we put all the weight of the ball directly on the elbow joint.

This is referred to as chicken-winging the ball. I am here to tell you this will cause a very sore elbow in bowling.I know because I did it. Have someone watch your bowling style, and be sure you are keeping your elbow tucked in.

Is Your Arm Swing Free or Are You Helping the Ball

Another cause of the excessive strain on the elbow comes from pulling the ball from the top of your swing. If you try to help the ball, and apply excessive force to bring the ball forward, you will also cause some tendonitis in the elbow.

When you do this, chances are you are clenching the ball as well. You grasp the ball tightly, to apply more force to the ball. Multiply that action by 30 or 50 or more times per night and you have some idea of the strain your elbow and arm tendons are going through.

Try to be as Smooth as Possible

Tendinitis is also seen in youth bowling,where tendons are still flexible.They are still growing and also learning the game and learning to develop their form as well. The lack of coordination at younger ages, and awkward motions can cause injury.

Very competitive and aggressive adult bowlers will suffer this type of injury as well. Trying to “hit the ball” or aggressively lifting the ball to generate more turn on the ball will cause this type of injury.

What are Some Elbow Tendinitis Treatments?

R.I.C.E. Treatment Method is a Common Recommendation.

  • Rest the elbow tendons: Take some time off to let the elbow rest and heal.
  • Ice the tendon: Use ice to be sure to keep inflammation down to help with healing.
  • Compress: Use a compression type support to help support the elbow.
  • Elevate: Keep the elbow raised as much as possible to help avoid any additional fluid buildup.

 

Rest the Elbow

You likely will want to take a few weeks off bowling to let the elbow heal up some.The tendons in your arm have basically torn or frayed from constant use. Resting it is the first and best choice. Using ice to keep the swelling down.

Take some anti-inflammatory medications called NSAIDs which include: aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and Naproxen (Aleve). These will help to relieve pain and also reduce the swelling.These also can be taken a few hours before bowling to help reduce pain and swelling while bowling. Avoid acetaminophen because it does not address swelling.

Ice the Tendon

If you use Ice, do not place the cold ice directly on your skin. Use a towel between the skin and the ice to protect against frostbite. Put the ice on for about 20 minutes at a time, every few hours.

I personally like to alternate it with some warm heat for 20 minutes. I have gotten some very good results with this alternate method. Some doctors say no heat. Chinese ancient medicine does not believe in using anything but heat for healing the body. Follow your doctors advice.

Compression

A good quality elbow brace that protects the sore spot is a good idea as well. It will give support as well as relieve pain. Some compression may help to restrict movement while the tendons heal.

Avoid those pronation movements that cause excessive strain on your arm and elbow. This is the motion used to tighten screws when using a manual screw driver. Try to use the powered version instead.

Elevate When You Can

Keeping the injury elevated helps with swelling.This is especially true during the initial icing. Sometimes it is painful to try to elevate an injured area. Anything that makes the pain worse, you should avoid doing.

Tendonitis can develop anywhere we put our bodies through repeated stress. It can affect the shoulders, hips knees and ankles. as well as fingers, wrists an elbows. A prescribed treatment option is Cortisone shots.

They work well for some people and some they do not. Once again, speak with your doctor, and weigh the risks and benefits, then make your own decision.

Rehab Is Helpful

A Physical therapist can also be quite helpful, and prescribe specific exercises to help a tendon repair itself. Tendons that are stretched properly, while healing respond better. Ultrasound treatments and low level light therapy is helpful as well.

New Elbow Tendinitis Treatments

A new treatment called platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is also being studied. PRP treatment uses your own blood that has been reduced to a plasma, and then injected back into the tendon. Studies indicate it reduces inflammation and speeds healing in this type of injury. Ask your doctor.

If this article has helped you, please let me know. leave a comment below.

Thanks for stopping by!

Chas

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18 thoughts on “Bowling Elbow Pain Explained”

  1. Great article and thanks for the information on Band-It. I was aware of the small elbow braces like the one shown in the photo (the old style that’s been around forever) but had never heard of Band-It. I have a similar problem that has been getting worse the past few weeks. Tonight in league I bowled a 210 the first game, the second game the pain become so bad that I could barely throw the ball and shot 123. I had to blind myself out the third game and have decided to take at the next 3 weeks off to try and heal. While i do occasionally have pain in the front joint near the elbow that connects the forearm to the elbow (typical tennis elbow spot) my pain is much more in the back of the arm about 2-3 inches above the elbow joint or above the funny bone spot. It feels like the tendons are being ripped apart in my back swing when it flares up.

    My questions to you would be first, do you think the Band-It brace or similar braces would do anything for my pain as my pain is not in the typical front spot where the brace is worn? if not, is there anything that I can wear that might help? The past few weeks I have been wearing a tight compression sleeve that covers the affected area while bowling but I’m starting to think this is a bad idea as it might be making the problem worse by restricting my range of motion. Just a theory but it seems weird that since I’ve been wearing it that the pain is getting worse. Might just have to stick to wearing that before and after bowling. Any help is greatly appreciated. Plan on seeing my doctor as well but really don’t want to stop bowling completely so any extra advice would be great.

    Reply
    • Hi Paco,
      Your pain is not where it would be considered normal tendinitis. First, I am not a doctor, so you need to talk to someone who deals with tendon/muscle injury. You may have a torn tendon, or even your bicep muscle! I have a torn bicep, so that is why I say that. The only thing I know of wearing to help is exactly what you are doing, a flexible sleeve( I used an elastic knee brace).
      But, It should not be getting worse! My best advice is to see a tendon/muscle doctor or surgeon, and have an ultra-sound type x-ray done on your arm. You need to find out what is wrong first! Good luck!
      Chas

      Reply
  2. I used to bowl a lot and had the same issue. My dad taught me how to bowl and he too experienced this elbow pain. You obviously have a lot of experience with this and have great tips to avoid the pain.

    What you’re suggesting with the proper techniques and stretching makes sense. Sometimes I would get the pain and would just feel off like I wasn’t throwing the ball right.

    There were also times when I wasn’t holding the ball right upon release and I could feel it was wrong.Of course overdoing it by bowling too much at once would require resting the elbow. Great tips! Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Rob,

      I had to have someone watching me and tell me what I was doing wrong. My elbow got so weak, I was ready for surgery for sure. But, talking to others who went thru the surgery I found out they weren’t convinced it was the best thing either. 

      The easiest thing to do was change my technique, and wear an elbow brace. but only after I rested it by not bowling for a year. I suffered for years with a chronic injury, it was bad!

       Yes and guys also over do it by bowling everyday of the week! Not to mention throwing a 16lb ball just because it’s macho, and it’s weight does carry pins better. But, as I got older, 14lbs is just fine!

      Thanks for taking the time to read my article and leave a comment.

      Chas

      Reply
  3. It is really a helpful article which had helped me a lot in finding questions why is my right elbow aches a lot until i can’t write.
    I had rested from bowling for a while. I did tried to play but MY God,, it aching like nothing. Now I am fully resting from bowling until I feel fit again. Tqvm for the article. It really helped me a lot. God Blessed U.

    Reply
    • Hi Harizan,
      I am so glad my article helped you! I hope it completely heals for you. I do wear an elbow brace when I bowl, and corrected my mechanics in bowling to keep the elbow close to my body, and follow straight through. It made all the difference in the world. But, the elbow takes a long time to heal, and will get sore very quickly when we do the wrong things. If you chicken wing your elbow when bowling…that will make it worse! It puts all the pressure on the elbow! Once I corrected that, my elbow has been fine! I still wear a brace to protect myself…because it is a very painful injury. Good luck! Thanks for taking the time to comment.
      Chas

      Reply
  4. Your remedies are reassuring. How do I know what is the right size brace for my arm? Do I need a doctor or PT to measure anything? These notes are extremely helpful and educational and reinforce the bowling training I ‘ve had, but still struggle to follow when on my own. I think my pain is caused from allowing my arm to swing out from my body and I also tend to muscle the ball instead of let the weight of the ball do the work. Thank you for writing this and making it available.
    Abby

    Reply
    • Hi Abigail,
      Thanks for the confidence in me! You ask a good question in the sizing, as it is a crap shoot trying to figure that out. Sometimes, the manufacturers will give you a wrist/arm/knee measurement that you use a tape measure and measure your circumference. What I did was ask another bowler using a brace, if you can try it on. The pro shop in the local bowling alleys will offer you a good evaluation as well.

      We all struggle to maintain complete focus on the proper techniques, so the answer is practice, practice, practice..and focus on proper techniques.Sometimes we need other bowlers to tell us what we are doing.I always focus on one part of my delivery for others to watch for, like ask “Am I staying behind the ball as I release the ball, or turning my hand before the release”. That way they are on the same page and not finding fault with something you aren’t focused on that day. But it gives you something to work on another day! Hope that helps! Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a good comment!
      Chas

      Reply
  5. Chas,

    Great article, it helped me A LOT! I’ve been playing for some time, but just started playing in a league and getting used to a reactive ball. Learning to throw it has been quite difficult for me, so I’m still trying different ways to find my throw.

    I drilled a heavier ball (14 lbs, when I’ve always played with a 13 lbs) and started playing with it 2 weeks ago. After last week’s practice I started experiencing a horrible elbow pain. I went to the doctor and he explained the injury (from a doctor’s point of view), but I wanted a bowler’s vision and you gave me the explanation I needed.

    After reading your article, I noticed I am doing ALL the things you mentioned to AVOID (lol): I’m using a heavier ball, I’m making a huge effort to throw faster, I’m throwing with my arm too separated from my body, I was not warming up enough, and so on.

    In the meantime, I decided to rest my elbow for a few weeks and then make corrections on my game. Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    • Hi Roberto,
      When I hear comments like this, it makes this all worthwhile! So glad to help you! I think if you suffer the problem, you can explain it better. I still to this day wear an elbow brace to protect my elbow. I don’t think I even need it, but I remember the pain like it was yesterday,…it hurts. In fact, my elbow got so bad I asked a doctor for a cortisone shot right into the elbow. Now, for a few seconds I was thinking it was a bad idea,(it hurts a bit), but it worked wonders and cured my years of dealing with pain. My advice…wear the elbow brace! And keep that elbow tucked in!! We used to practice by putting a towel under our arm and keep it there as long as you can till your arm clears your body and you release the ball. One word of caution though, when the towel comes out it falls around the foul line and sets off the foul lights. Years ago, they only had the foul lights during leagues. Now insurance companies require them on all the time. You can practice at home by throwing the football to practice your release using your towel.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!
      Chas

      Reply
  6. Hello sir
    My name is Aamir I am fast bowler I am Having same elbow Paine​ at that place where Dale steyn is used to bendage his fast bowling arm
    I hat this pain more then year a ago and it still with me I tried may things​ but it disappears for a time being but it came back again when I start bowling again
    And from the consultation of my doctor I stopped​ cricket form two months but when I started​ cricket it gratually come back
    This Paine has nothing effect in my life outside from Cricket this Paine only appare when I am bowling
    Sir tell me please what I do

    Reply
    • HI Aamir,
      I am no doctor, so I can only tell you what worked for me. I use the elbow brace pictured in the Bowling Elbow Pain Explained article. Wear a brace when you bowl or play cricket. It gives support to the elbow.I also received a cortisone injection into the painful part of my elbow. That also improved my elbow tendonitis. That bandage you speak of is for support of the tendons in the arm where they attach to the elbow. They will fracture and tear from use. If possible, speak to a coach, explain your problem,and ask him to watch you and what form you use. He may be able to correct a problem in your technique that may relieve your pain considerably.I had a distinct problem of bringing my elbow around to the side. Once I corrected that mistake in my form it greatly helped relieve my elbow pain. I hope that helps? Thanks for your comment.
      Chas

      Reply
    • Hi Carla,
      Well I am not a doctor so I can only tell you what works for me. Sometimes overuse causes elbow pain as well. Using improper techniques to do things like lifting or swinging can as well.
      If my elbow gets sore, I try to rest it, ice it and get some ultrasound treatments. They seem to help me. I have relieved most of my problems by proper technique in bowling. I was the worst for turning my wrist and swinging my elbow out. This put undue stress on the elbow and was my main problem. Once I corrected that, then the elbow pain all but disappeared. Now, I did get pain returning when I did repetitious things like splitting firewood for long periods.

      Wearing the elbow brace was also very effective for me in my bowling game. I still wear it just as a precaution.

      On occasion I have soaked my hands in very warm water with epsom salts for pain relief. That might be worth a try.

      As far as exercises, when I get it healed up, I do use the spring hand grips, and curls to strengthen the forearm, and biceps. I also have a total gym that I can incorporate the whole range of shoulder, arms and torso conditioning that helps with overall conditioning.
      If that pain is persistent, and normal exercise and ultrasound doesn’t help, I would talk to your doctor about pain relieving treatments, such as cortisone shots. But speak to your doctor first.
      Hope that helps!
      Chas

      Reply
  7. This is an interesting article on bowling elbow. I’ve never heard of bowling elbow before, but it does make sense. I haven’t bowl for years since I’ve had lower back pain from time to time. I can remember bowling and releasing the ball. I definitely wasn’t the best of it. Probably over time, I would have had bowling elbow too.

    Reply
    • HI Kevin,

      Bowlers elbow is similar to tennis elbow, the tendons in the arm, close to the elbow get torn and frayed from the repeated movement. it is painful, and your arm get weaker and weaker until you are forced to rest the injury. Whether you would suffer from it depends on the mechanics you use in your motion to deliver the ball. Normally it is caused by some awkward motion or way too much bowling in a short period of time. Thanks for stopping by.

      Chas

      Reply
  8. Chas,

    Great article. Lots of good information. I am a baseball coach and a lot of the information pertains to baseball. I’ve seen a lot of baseball players with arm troubles.

    I’m also a health teacher. I love reading articles like this. The R.I.C.E. treatment is something I go over with my health students every year.

    Thanks for the article,

    Mike

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      Glad you liked the article! It is more than bowling that causes elbow injuries for sure. I can see arm injuries in baseball as well from throwing the baseball, whether it be pictures, catchers, infielders, or outfielders.
      As we age injuries tend to be more common as well. You can get more information in my article Health Related Issues in Bowling.

      Even though it is about bowling injuries, it could also pertain to baseball as well. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
      Chas

      Reply

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