Golfer’s Elbow Treatment — (Physical Therapist)

Golfer's Elbow Treatment Jason Bretcko Pt Dpt Physical Therapist at Tell Me More Golf

As the lead medical contributor at Tell Me More Golf, I am going to provide important information regarding Golfer’s Elbow, including what it is, how to know if you have it, and how to treat it

What Is Golfer’s Elbow?

Golfer’s Elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, is an overuse injury that affects the inside of the elbow and is common in golfers. 

It usually affects your dominant arm Golfer’s elbow is generally caused by damage from excessive stress placed on the flexor muscles of the forearm and their tendons that attach to the bony bump on the inside of your elbow. 

Possible causes of this stress include repetitive activities such as swinging a golf club, not performing a proper warm-up, and poor conditioning.

Golfer’s Elbow Pain Location

Pain from golfer’s elbow is usually felt on the inside of your elbow. The pain can also occasionally extend along the inside of your forearm.

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Golfer’s Elbow Symptoms

  • Pain along the inside of your elbow especially with bending your wrist and gripping/squeezing something with your hand.
  • Weakness in the muscles of the forearm, wrist, and hand which can affect your ability to grip and swing a golf club
  • Stiffness or limited motion in your elbow and wrist.
  • Numbness and tingling in your inner elbow, wrist, hand, and fingers

Golfer’s Elbow Recovery Time

With rest and proper treatment, golfer’s elbow typically resolves within 6 weeks. 

Golfer’s Elbow Treatment

In most cases, golfer’s elbow will go away on its own within six to eight months, but who wants to be off the course that long?  The treatments listed below can aid in making symptoms go away sooner. 

  • Rest.  The easiest and most effective treatment is to take some time off from activities that cause pain.  That will include any repetitive tasks and golfing until the pain is gone. 
  • Ice. Applying ice to the inside of your elbow can help to reduce pain and inflammation. 
  • Medication/Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Such as ibuprofen
  • Bracing. Wearing a counterforce brace on your forearm
  • ExercisePhysical Therapy. Seeking treatment from a trained healthcare professional is always recommended to ensure proper treatment is being implemented. 

If your golfer’s elbow pain doesn’t improve with the treatment above, you should consult with your healthcare provider who will assess your range of motion, and strength, and perform testing such as x-rays. They may determine that your injury requires additional treatment including:

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Golfer’s Elbow Brace

Most golfer’s elbow braces are counterforce braces with hook and loop closures and a raised padded surface that you put directly over your affected muscle. The pressure helps to reduce the stress placed on the muscles to reduce pain. 

How to Fix Golfer’s Elbow

Most people will get better with rest, ice, and pain relievers. Symptoms can return, so corrective measures can be taken, including improving core strength, flexibility, and mobility and correcting any mechanical issues with your swing to ensure you are not putting too much stress on your elbow.  If you suspect that you have golfer’s elbow, you should always consult your healthcare provider.

Golfer’s Elbow Exercises

Improving the flexibility and strength of your forearm muscles can help to reduce the pain you are feeling on the inside of your elbow when golfing.  These two wrist stretching and strengthening exercises will target those areas to help reduce your pain. 

Wrist stretching

  1. Straight your arm and elbow with your palm facing the ceiling
  2. Grasp the hand of your injured arm with your other hand and gently pull your hand and wrist down towards the floor until a stretch is felt in your forearm
  3. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds
  4. Repeat 3 to 5 times. 
Elbow and Wrist Stretch for Golfers Elbow Treatment Jason Bretcko Pt Dpt Physical Therapist at Tell Me More Golf

Wrist Strengthening

  1. Hold a weight in your hand (on the side of your body that is injured) and sit down.
  2. Rest your arm on your thigh, with your palm facing the ceiling. Your elbow should be bent and your wrist straight
  3. Slowly lower the hand with the weight in it. It should take about 4 to 5 seconds to lower the weight. 
  4. Use your other hand to help move the weight back to the starting position.
  5. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions
  6. Repeat 3 times. 

Not only is it important to get your pain under control, but improving mobility in your back and shoulders can reduce the load and stress placed on the muscles around your elbow and forearm.  These four exercises will help with your mobility. 

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Thoracic rotation stretch

  1. Lie on your side and bend your top knee so that your hip and knee are in a straight line in front of you
  2. Straight your arms in front of you and put your hands together
  3. Rotate your top arm up towards the ceiling and then behind you until a stretch is felt in your mid back
  4. Make sure to keep your top knee on the floor. 
  5. Hold for  2 to 3 seconds 
  6. Return to starting position
  7. Repeat 10 times then switch sides.

Thoracic extension stretch

  1. Lie on your back with either a foam roll or a large towel roll across your shoulder blades (the roll shoulder makes a “T” with your spine)
  2. Place your hands behind your head
  3. Gently lean back over the roll, keeping your hips on the ground
  4. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds
  5. Repeat 10 times

Scapular wall slides

  1. Stand with your back and head against the wall
  2. Raise your arms to your sides, and place your elbows against the wall 
  3. Slide your arms up overhead, keeping your elbows against the wall, and lower 10 times
  4. Repeat 3 times. 

Exercise should not make your elbow pain worse. However, there is always a chance that exercising can cause short-term muscle pain as the body gets used to performing these exercises. This pain should ease quickly and your pain should be no worse the morning after you exercise. 

If you were to rate your pain out of 10, 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you have ever had. Try to keep your pain level between  0 to 5. If your pain rises above a 5, try these 3 modifications:

  • Do less of the exercise, by decreasing the repetitions. 
  • Do The exercise slower.
  • Take a longer rest between exercises.

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Golfer’s Elbow Surgery

Surgery is rarely required but if your elbow pain and other symptoms don’t improve or go away in six to 12 months, surgery might be an option.  

  • Tenex procedure which is a minimally invasive procedure that removes scar tissue from your tendon
  • Ligament and tendon reconstruction or repair where a surgeon will repair torn and damaged ligaments and/or tendons to help improve function, elbow strength, and pain

Frequently Asked Questions

What does golfer’s elbow feel like?

Aching pain on the inside of your elbow and forearm.  You may also feel numbness or tingling in your forearm and hand, and weakness with making a fist or bending your wrist. 

Does RICE: Rest Ice Compression Elevation, Work?

RICE can be effective at reducing your elbow pain.  It works best when combined with stretching and exercise. 

What is the fastest way to cure golfer’s elbow?

Rest.  Golfer’s elbow is an overuse that is caused by repetitive stress placed on the muscle of your forearm. That includes swinging a golf club.  It is best to rest until symptoms have resolved. 

How can I get rid of golfer’s elbow?

Rest until your symptoms improve, use ice and medication to control your pain, and perform exercises to improve your strength and flexibility. 

How long does it take golfers elbow to heal? 

With appropriate treatment including rest and exercise, golfer’s elbow will usually resolve within 6 weeks.  Left untreated, golfer’s elbow can persist for 6 to 12 months. 

How do you know if you have golfer’s elbow?

If you are experiencing pain on the inside of your elbow and having difficulty gripping your club or other objects you should seek medical attention where a healthcare provider can help to diagnose your injury. 

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Conclusion

Golfer’s elbow can be a nuisance that keeps you off the greens. If left untreated, golfer’s elbow could cause permanent damage which is why it is important to always talk to your healthcare provider if you have persistent elbow pain. With appropriate treatment, you can take care of your elbow without giving up the activities you love.

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Dr Jason Bretcko Physical Therapist Pg Dpt Doctor Tell Me More Golf Lead Medical Contributor Cafs Certified Orthopedics
Jason Bretcko

TellMeMoreGolf.com Lead Medical Contributor

Dr. Jason Bretcko brings over 15 years of clinical experience as a qualified and seasoned physical therapist, specializing in orthopedics. Alongside his professional expertise, Dr. Bretcko is also an enthusiastic recreational golfer. Certified in Astym and Applied Functional Science (CAFS), he seamlessly integrates his clinical proficiency with a profound understanding of golf. Dr. Bretcko is dedicated to assisting golfers in overcoming strength and mobility challenges associated with common golfing injuries such as back pain, golfer’s elbow, knee pain, and hip discomfort. His holistic approach aims at enhancing golfers’ function and performance, guiding them towards a successful return to the course.

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