Golfer’s Elbow: What You Need To Know

In Upper Extremity Pains by Brad Rickert

Did you know non-golfers can develop golfer’s elbow?

For example, people who work at computer keyboards often suffer from the same inner elbow pain as a golfer.

So, what is golfer’s elbow?

Golfer’s elbow is the irritation and inflammation of the medial epicondyle (the bony portion of your elbow close to your body).

Golfer’s elbow is often referred to as elbow tendonitis. You have multiple wrist flexor muscles (wrist flexion – bringing your palm towards your forearm). These muscles attach to and run over this bony prominence as one “common flexor tendon”.

These muscle tendons can become inflamed with repetitive overuse or when they are too weak and cannot meet the demand asked of them.

golfer's elbow

Golfer’s elbow can happen when:

  • hitting a golf ball (more often driver, wood, long irons swings)
  • weight lifting
  • using hand tools frequently (twisting a screwdriver or use of plumber’s tools)
  • poor wrist alignment when using keyboard/mouse
  • you have a weak shoulder or wrist

Symptoms of medial epicondylitis

  • loss of grip and forearm strength
  • painful and limited elbow range of motion
  • ulnar nerve irritation/entrapment
  • elbow pain when lifting
  • stiffness in elbow

This nerve irritation could result in numbness and tingling down the forearm and into the pinky and ring fingers, with associated weakness.

Severe cases can result in a permanent bend at the elbow as well as chronic pain and buildup of scar tissue.

How long does it take for golfer’s elbows to heal?

As with many orthopedic conditions, it depends on time since onset, work or leisure activities and the required use of the affected muscles on a daily basis.

Often, if a condition like this is noticed and treated early on, it can be rather quickly treated with conservative therapy.

Generally, it can be resolved within 3-4 weeks. The inflamed area needs time to decrease in sensitivity.

Efficient healing requires adequate strengthening, stretching, and postural assessment as necessary. In addition, modalities help address pain and inflammation. In combination with avoiding the aggravating activity, this can be resolved and the patient has the tools to address a minor flare-up on their own.

More severe cases can take multiple months for resolution. This depends on time since onset, potential scar tissue in the area, and potential chronic pain factors.

Treating inner elbow pain

Outside of therapy, patients often treat inflammatory symptoms with anti-inflammatory medications. Appropriately dosed strengthening and stretching are the primary ways to treat pain and address the dysfunction, but early in therapy pain may limit the ability to complete a full exercise program.

Cold packs or ice massage help limit inflammation, especially after playing a round of golf for example.

Using a bracing strap decrease tensions on flexor and extensor tendons of the forearm

Depending on your physician, they may recommend platelet-rich protein (PRP) or steroid injections to address inflammation initially, golfer's elbowwhich decreases pain and allows for improved participation early on in physical therapy.

How physical therapy helps

After a personalized, in-depth initial evaluation, your physical therapist determines an appropriate care plan.

Generally, sessions begin with “warming up” the affected area with ultrasound and manual therapy. We follow up by stretching the wrist in flexion, extension, pronation and supination. Modalities can be used in conjunction with these exercises to treat the pain as well as the inflamed tissues.

Once completed, your physical therapist begins upper extremity strengthening. The exercises focus at the wrist, hand and forearm, but not excluding upper arm and shoulder strengthening depending on muscle presentation.

At your session’s end, cold packs or ice massage relieve pain, inflammation and allow for improved function the rest of the day.

Then, your therapist develops a home exercise plan (HEP) with modifications and which develops into how you treat future pain.

How to manage or prevent golfer’s elbow

Warming up with stretching exercises involving your wrists, forearms and elbow.

Strengthening your forearm helps reduce tension on your tendons. Squeezing a tennis ball for five minutes helps. Wrist curls and reverse wrist curls with light weight do a good job of strengthening your forearm.

One other thought for golfers. Consider having a professional evaluate your swing technique and equipment for fit, grip and length.

If you work at a keyboard all day, make sure to take frequent breaks. Consider using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. Check your desk posture and make the necessary changes.


Do you have golfer’s elbow pain? Call Bowman Physical Therapy and get help today. River Oaks 832-409-6390 or Friendswood 281-482-7380.