Golfers Elbow - An Overview

Symptoms, Causes and Treatment for Golfers Elbow


It may be lesser known than the more common tennis elbow, but golfers elbow can be just as painful and irritating.


Golfers elbow occurs as pain or aches on the inside of the inner elbow joint.


In contrast, tennis elbow is a pain on the outside of the elbow joint.


Golfers elbow - like tennis elbow – got its name because it is a condition that afflicts players with a bad golf swing. Still, similar to tennis elbow, it’s more common among people who work with their hands.


This Fix My Elbow guide will provide a broad overview of the symptoms, causes, and treatments for golfers elbow.


What is Golfer’s Elbow (medial epicondylitis)?

Golfer’s elbow, also known as ‘medial epicondylitis,’ is a condition in which the tendons or ligaments on the inside of the elbow and forearm become inflamed from overuse.


As a result, people report pain in their elbow joint that radiates up their forearm to their wrist and hand. If not treated, the pain can become worse. Golfer’s elbow is less well-known than tennis elbow, but both conditions are very similar.


Golfer’s elbow is most common among people exerting pressure or stress on their wrist and forearm through repetitive motions.


However, much like tennis elbow, golfers are not the only people to suffer from the condition. It’s most common among carpenters, plumbers, golfers, typists, and others who use their hands.


Elbow Anatomy

The elbow is a joint that allows the arm to bend and comprises three main bones, the radius, ulna, and humerus, which are surrounded and protected by tendons, ligaments, and muscles.


The bony joint at the end of the humerus bone is epicondyles, where the term medial epicondylitis comes from.


Overusing the muscles and tendons in the forearm can create small tears or inflammation, leading to medial elbow pain and swelling known as golfer’s elbow.

What Causes Golfer’s Elbow?

The most common cause of golfer’s elbow is overuse or strain of the tendons and ligaments in the elbow or forearm.


Repetitive movements like hammering, swinging a golf club, gardening, typing, or other activities that require a lot of force exerted on your forearm and wrist all contribute to golfer’s elbow.


Often, doctors and physical therapists find that poor form can also be to blame for golfer’s elbow.


For example, athletes over-extending their arm or wrist while swinging, throwing, or lifting can develop golfer’s elbow.


Some of the most common activities or work that contribute to developing golfer’s elbow include:


  • Improper technique in racquet sports: like tennis, golf, and baseball. Over-extending the arm or using too small or too heavy equipment can lead to golfer’s elbow. 

  • Improper technique throwing a ball: Overextending your forearm when pitching in baseball or softball as well as football or archery can all contribute to golfer’s elbow. 

  • Improper form weight training: Lifting heavy weights with poor technique, like curling wrists during bicep curls, can put too much pressure on the elbow muscles and tendons. 

  • Forceful, repetitive movements: Hammering, plumbing work, carpentry, and other activities that are part of construction can all lead to golfer’s elbow. Using hand tools regularly can contribute to golfer’s elbow.

Golfer’s Elbow Symptoms

The symptoms of golfer’s elbow develop slowly over time but start with pain or ache in the elbow joint.


Most people who suffer from golfer’s elbow report that the pain begins as mild. But can develop into more severe or persistent pain if not treated.


Some of the main symptoms of golfer’s elbow include:


  • Pain or ache in the elbow joint

  • Swelling or redness of the elbow joint 

  • Pain that radiates up to the forearm, wrist, and top of hand 

  • Feeling of discomfort or weakness when trying to grip things like a cup or doorknob 

  • Stiffness of the elbow or difficulty bending your arm 

How to Treat Golfer’s Elbow?

If treated early, golfer’s elbow can be resolved. While all patients are different, several treatment options have been proven effective at reducing pain and recovery time when treating golfer’s elbow.

Golfers Elbow Treatment


Rest or Modify Your Movement 

If you are experiencing pain, give your strained muscles and tendons a break from the motion contributing to your pain or soreness. For many, stopping all activity may not be possible. If that is the case, try to modify your movement to avoid putting constant weight or pressure on the muscles. Use a flat surface to help bear some of the force or ask for help.


Work with your hands for a living? A physical therapist could help identify alternative movements to help you place less pressure on your wrist and forearm. Some movement alternatives include:


  • Lifting objects with your palm facing your body rather than gripping them 

  • Change the grip size of the item you are holding 

  • Reduce the weight or size of the tools you use 

  • Use the larger muscles in your arm to reduce strain on your forearm and wrist

  • Try to spend less time making the repetitive motion 

  • If your pain is caused by poor form, work with a therapist to fix it

Ice or Heat for Golfer’s Elbow

Icing your elbow is one of the most effective ways to reduce pain and swelling and prevent golfer’s elbow. It’s recommended you ice your elbow a few times per day to reduce inflammation of the tendon and give you pain relief. In addition, the ice helps slow down blood flow and reduces swelling, giving your muscles time to reset. Try icing right after activity for 10-15 minutes.


Heat is another option, especially for people with chronic golfer’s elbow. The heat allows your muscles to relax and gives them time to heal. Golfer’s elbow is caused by tiny tears in tendons that don’t have time to heal, so heat is a good option if you are regularly working with your hands.

Physical Therapy Exercises for Golfer’s Elbow

In addition to resting and icing your elbow, strengthening exercises or stretches help reduce pain and strengthen muscles to avoid more chronic pain.


Physical therapy can provide specific stretches to help alleviate pain and combat any stiffness in the elbow or forearm. While resting is important, physical therapists don’t recommend stopping all activity when experiencing golfer’s elbow because it will cause greater stiffness and exacerbate the pain.


Stretches of the palm, wrist, and forearm muscles are all recommended for golf elbow. In addition, weighted exercises like bicep curls, wrist curls, and holding a weight in place effectively strengthen muscles to help accelerate recovery.

Brace for Golfer’s Elbow

A brace or strap is another excellent option to relieve pain from golfer’s elbow and provide a faster recovery.


A brace helps hold the inflamed muscle in place, absorbing some pressure and allowing the muscle to heal faster.


In addition, a quality brace or strap provides extra compression to keep your muscle or tendon still, even when working.


For example, many labourers and athletes use a brace or strap to reduce the symptoms of their injured elbow.

When to see a Doctor for medial elbow pain

If you have tried all the above treatments and your pain worsens, you may want to see a doctor. They are likely to recommend an X-ray or MRI to determine the cause of the pain and if it could be something more serious. For example, an X-ray will show tissue damage or another severe cognition like arthritis that could require surgery.

Conclusion

This article provided a detailed overview of golfer’s elbow – what it is, what causes it, symptoms of golfer’s elbow, and treatment for golfers elbow. 

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