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Golfer’s Elbow: Causes, Treatments, & Prevention Tips

Golf season is in full swing and if you’ve been teeing off regularly, you may find yourself experiencing discomfort in your elbows — but don’t worry!

Golfer’s elbow is a common problem that many golfers encounter. With a little dedication and proactive measures, you can effectively alleviate the pain and get back on track for a pain-free and enjoyable season on the greens.

Understanding golfer’s elbow

If you’re experiencing pain to the underside of your elbow when you grip your club, when you swing and strike the ground, or when you’re gripping or picking something up – you’ve probably got golfer’s elbow. It’s usually in the right elbow if you’re a righty and the left elbow if you’re a lefty. More technically, the tendons on the underside of your elbow that connect the muscles in your forearm to the bones just above your elbow, are inflamed.

​​The healing time for golfer’s elbow varies depending on the severity of the injury and individual factors. In general, mild cases of golfer’s elbow can take several weeks to heal with proper treatment and self-care. However, more severe cases may require a few months with ongoing rehabilitation. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to get an accurate assessment of your condition and a personalized treatment plan.

Golfer’s elbow symptoms

Golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, is a common condition that affects golfers and individuals who engage in repetitive gripping activities. The primary cause of golfer’s elbow can be the repetitive motion involved in the golf swing or from hitting the ground too often or aggressively which strains and stresses the tendons in the wrist and forearm, leading to inflammation and pain.

The symptoms of golfer’s elbow typically include:

  • Elbow pain (underside)
  • Weakness with gripping and lifting
  • Elbow stiffness
  • Tenderness to the inside of the elbow

Ready to find relief from your golfer’s elbow symptoms? Contact us today and take the first step towards a pain-free swing.

How can I treat golfer’s elbow, fast?

Initially, the best way to treat golfer’s elbow is to not ignore it – look after it right away. The longer it lasts, the harder it is to get rid of. There are a few main principles in treating golfer’s elbow on your own:

  • Rest: Initially, rest is the best option. Don’t do anything that causes pain or irritates it; this will only worsen it.
  • Heat and ice therapy: Heat is best if the pain has lasted longer than 3-4 days, but ice is better if the pain is within the first few days.
    • Ice is also helpful if the elbow pain has been reaggravated – for example, after yard work or a round of golf. Ice helps reduce inflammation, but it also reduces blood flow.
    • Heat increases circulation which helps with healing, but if the inflammation is new and acute, it can worsen the inflammation.
  • Elbow brace: Using a golfer’s elbow brace can also be beneficial when participating in activities that would otherwise worsen the pain. Check out some of the available options below:
  • Pain relief: Try a topical anti-inflammatory, such as Voltaren or something similar. Make sure you use it as prescribed. Check with your physician or pharmacist if you have any concerns.
  • Stretch your forearm muscles: Straighten your elbow out in front of you with your palm up. Take your other hand and gently pull all 4 fingers backwards toward the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times, perform every couple of hours or when you feel the need to. Don’t pull so hard that it hurts.
  • Physiotherapy: Golfer’s elbow can be a challenging injury to treat and getting in with the experts is usually best. Our team of physiotherapists is here to assess your condition, provide targeted treatments, and guide you through personalized exercises and stretches to relieve pain and prevent future injuries. There are many treatments that are effective such as myofascial release, acupuncture, intramuscular stimulation (IMS), and shockwave therapy to name a few.

Don’t delay your recovery and time away from the greens any longer book an appointment online today!

How can I prevent golfer’s elbow when playing golf?

Prevention is the key – if golfer’s elbow doesn’t start, you don’t have to treat it! Even if you’ve experienced golfer’s elbow in the past and it’s been fully resolved, it can often come back.

Follow the steps below to help prevent golfer’s elbow:

1. Avoid over-playing

Too much too soon or in other words, overuse, is by far the most common cause of sports injuries. Repetitive stress and strain on the tendons and muscles in the forearm from hitting the ball (and ground) excessively does cause micro-tearing of these structures and they need time to heal. If given enough time, the tissues heal stronger than before and resilience to stress is built up. However, if the muscles and tendons aren’t given enough time to heal, then more micro-tearing occurs which leads to a breakdown of the tissues, inflammation, pain and disability.

To stop this from happening, start the golf season slowly at a good pace. Take a day off between hitting balls or playing a round of golf for the first 2-3 weeks and prepare your arms by performing the exercises and stretches described later on in the article.

2. Check your grip

To avoid golfer’s elbow, make sure you are using proper grip and swing techniques. Making basic mistakes with your grip puts undue stress on the muscles and tendons in the forearm, leading to inflammation and pain.

Golfer’s elbow is usually caused by holding the club incorrectly and hitting hundreds of balls with a poor grip or by hitting the ground repetitively or too aggressively when swinging the club. It affects the trailing arm — the arm furthest from the hole (right elbow with a right-handed golf swing).

The best grip position is called the neutral grip, where the hands are placed on the club so that the wrists, elbows and shoulders are in their most relaxed position to allow for maximum movement with the least amount of stress on the joints.

When placing each hand on the club, a line should form between the index finger and the thumb. This line on both hands should be pointed somewhere between your trail-side eye and the trail-side shoulder (i.e. in a right-handed golfer, the trail-side eye/shoulder is the right eye and shoulder).

Another problem is often people grip their club too tightly. You shouldn’t grip your club with more than 30% of your maximum grip strength. If you find you’re gripping the club too tightly, check to see if your golf club grips need to be replaced, wash your grips to regain their tackiness or especially for seniors, switch the grips with thicker ones to make it easier to hold your clubs.

3. Use proper swing form

Learning and practicing proper swing mechanics can help to reduce the risk of golfer’s elbow and other related injuries. There are many mistakes a person can make with their swing. A common error is releasing or breaking your wrists too soon on the downswing. This causes undue stress on the muscles and tendons attaching to the inside of the elbow. Hitting the ground excessively can also irritate the elbow and common swing mistakes that can cause this are during the downswing, transferring your weight onto your front leg too slowly or not enough, excessive movement from your hips or shoulders and swinging the club at too shallow of an angle.

Consider taking lessons from a golf professional to improve your swing form, focusing on maintaining a stable posture and smooth, controlled movements throughout the swing.

If you’re looking for local courses to take lessons, we recommend the following options:

Check with your local course’s pro shop to see if they offer lessons or assessments from golf professionals. A slight adjustment in your grip, your swing or your stance can make a big difference in how you feel after a round of golf.

4. Strengthen your grip and forearm muscles

You can also increase your grip strength and strengthen your forearm muscles to help prevent injury. Try incorporating wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, and using hand grippers. By strengthening the forearm, the muscle and tendons become more resilient to withstand the repetitive stress and strain caused by golfing.

Follow these simple steps to strengthen your grip and forearm muscles:

Wrist curls
  1. Use a dumbbell or barbell with a weight that feels right for you.
  2. Sit on a bench or chair with your forearm resting on your thigh or a flat surface, palms facing upwards.
  3. Hold the weight with an underhand grip and let your wrist hang over your knee or surface.
  4. Slowly curl your wrist upward, raising the weight as high as possible, and then slowly lower it back down.

Start with 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions for each side, 2-3 times per week. As your strength improves, feel free to gradually add more sets, increase the number of repetitions, or challenge yourself with heavier weights.

Reverse wrist curls
  1. To perform this exercise, assume the same starting position as wrist curls, but with your palm facing downwards.
  2. Hold the weight with an overhand grip and let your wrist hang over your knee.
  3. Curl your wrist upward, raising the weight, and then lower it back down slowly.

Begin by performing 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions for each side, incorporating these exercises into your routine 2-3 times per week.

Hand grippers

Hand grippers are small devices designed to improve grip strength. They consist of two handles that you squeeze together against resistance. Using hand grippers regularly can help strengthen the muscles in your hand, fingers, and forearm.

Start with a gripper that provides moderate resistance and gradually work your way up to stronger grippers as your strength improves. Aim for multiple sets of 10-15 repetitions per hand.

5. Stretch your forearm muscles

Stretching the forearm is an effective way to reduce muscle tension and alleviate strain on the aggravated tendons.

Follow these simple steps to perform an effective forearm stretch.

For the underside of the forearm:

  1. Straighten your elbow out in front of you with your palm up.
  2. Take your other hand and gently pull all 4 fingers backwards toward the ground.

For the backside of the forearm:

  1. Straighten your elbow beside your body
  2. Turn the palm of your hand away from your thigh
  3. Flex or bend your wrist, then make a gentle fist.

By performing these stretches, you will feel a gentle pull and stretch in throughout your forearm. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat it 3 times. It is recommended to perform this stretch every couple of hours, but remember not to pull excessively to the point of discomfort or pain.

Experiencing persistent Golfer’s Elbow pain?

If you experience pain for more than a week or find that it’s interfering with your ability to play, it’s time to seek professional help. The Summit Team specializes in golf-specific physiotherapy. Our team has taken courses that focus on golf injuries, their causes, and proper treatments. We can help manage your pain and inflammation and assess you to determine what stretches and exercises will get you better more quickly, and help prevent further injuries from happening.

We offer a variety of treatments that are extremely effective for golf injuries, including:

Don’t let pain hinder your love for the game. Contact us today to get back on the course, feeling better, and playing your best golf.