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Golfer's Elbow: Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatment Strategies

Posted on August 28 2023

 Golfer's Elbow: Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatment Strategies

Golfer's elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, is a common condition that affects individuals who engage in repetitive wrist and forearm movements, such as golfers, tennis players, and individuals involved in manual labor. This condition leads to pain and discomfort around the inner side of the elbow, and if left untreated, it can significantly impact one's daily activities and performance in sports. In this article, we'll delve into what golfer's elbow is, its causes, and explore effective ways to treat and manage this condition.

Understanding Golfer's Elbow

Golfer's elbow is a form of tendinopathy, specifically affecting the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bony bump on the inner side of the elbow known as the medial epicondyle. Despite its name, this condition can affect not only golfers but also individuals who engage in repetitive gripping, wrist flexion, and forearm rotation activities. The repeated stress on these tendons can cause small tears or inflammation, leading to pain and tenderness in the affected area.

Causes of Golfer's Elbow

Several factors contribute to the development of golfer's elbow:

  1. Repetitive Movements: Engaging in repetitive motions involving the wrist and forearm, such as swinging a golf club or racket, can strain the tendons over time. These movements can overload the tendons and cause microtears.

  2. Incorrect Technique: Using improper technique during sports activities or manual labor can exacerbate the strain on the tendons. Incorrect form can lead to increased stress on the medial epicondyle. A swing that has too much wrist movement can flare up a case of medial epicondylitis.

  3. Weak Muscles: Weak forearm muscles can fail to adequately support the tendons, making them more susceptible to injury. This is especially true if the muscles on the back of the forearm (extensors) are weaker compared to the muscles on the front (flexors).

  4. Age and Degeneration: As individuals age, tendons tend to lose their elasticity and become more prone to injury. Degeneration of the tendons can make them more susceptible to inflammation and tears.

  5. Overuse: Engaging in excessive or intense physical activity without proper rest and recovery can increase the risk of developing golfer's elbow.

  6. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, can weaken the tendons and make them more prone to injury.

Symptoms of Golfer's Elbow

Golfer's elbow typically presents with the following symptoms:

  1. Pain: The primary symptom is pain on the inner side of the elbow. The pain might radiate down the forearm. It is usually aggravated by gripping, lifting, or bending the wrist.

  2. Tenderness: The area around the medial epicondyle can become tender to touch, and pressure on this spot can intensify the pain.

  3. Stiffness: Individuals with golfer's elbow may experience stiffness in the elbow joint, making it difficult to fully extend or flex the arm.

  4. Weakness: Weakened grip strength and decreased ability to perform activities that require forearm strength are common signs of this condition.

Treating Golfer's Elbow

Effectively managing and treating golfer's elbow requires a combination of rest, targeted exercises, pain management, and sometimes medical intervention. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Rest and Ice: Giving the affected area proper rest is crucial to allow the tendons to heal. Applying ice to the area for 15-20 minutes every few hours during the initial stages can help reduce inflammation and ease pain. ActiveWrap makes an easy to use elbow wrap you can use for ice and compression.    

  2. Medication: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can provide relief from pain and reduce inflammation. However, these should be used under medical guidance.

  1. Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can design a rehabilitation program that includes specific exercises to gradually strengthen the forearm muscles. Eccentric exercises, where the muscle contracts while lengthening, have shown to be effective in treating tendinopathies.

  2. Bracing: Wearing a counterforce brace, which is worn just below the elbow, can help alleviate strain on the tendons by distributing forces across a larger area.

  3. Stretching and Strengthening: Incorporating gentle stretching and strengthening exercises for the forearm muscles can help improve flexibility and support the healing process.

  4. Ultrasound or Laser Therapy: Some medical professionals might recommend therapies such as ultrasound or laser treatment to promote healing and reduce pain.

  5. Corticosteroid Injections: In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be administered to provide short-term relief from pain and inflammation. However, these injections are typically used cautiously due to potential side effects.

  6. Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT): ESWT involves delivering shockwaves to the affected area, stimulating blood flow and promoting tissue healing. It has shown promise in treating chronic tendinopathies.

  7. Surgery: In severe cases where conservative treatments fail, surgical intervention might be considered to remove damaged tissue or reattach tendons.

Preventing Golfer's Elbow

Prevention is key to avoiding golfer's elbow. Here are some tips to reduce the risk of developing this condition:

  1. Proper Technique: Whether you're playing sports or engaging in manual labor, ensure you're using the correct technique to minimize strain on the forearm muscles.

  2. Warm-Up and Stretching: Always warm up before engaging in physical activities, and incorporate dynamic stretches that target the forearm muscles.

  3. Gradual Progression: If you're starting a new activity or exercise routine, gradually increase the intensity and duration to give your tendons time to adapt.

  4. Strength Training: Regularly engage in forearm-strengthening exercises to enhance muscle support and resilience.

  5. Rest and Recovery: Allow your body sufficient time to recover after intense physical activities. Adequate rest is essential for preventing overuse injuries.


Golfer's elbow can be a challenging condition to deal with, but with the right approach, it can be effectively managed and treated. If you're experiencing symptoms of golfer's elbow, it's important to consult a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. By addressing the underlying causes, incorporating rest, exercises, and potentially medical interventions, you can regain comfort and strength in your forearm, allowing you to resume your favorite activities with confidence. Remember, prevention is key, so taking proactive steps to protect your forearm muscles can go a long way in avoiding golfer's elbow and other similar conditions.