Story by: Norton Healthcare; Reviewed by Jeffrey S. Stephenson, M.D. on February 5, 2024
Golfer’s elbow is caused by repetitive motion that wears on the soft tissue near the elbow. Known clinically as medial epicondylitis, golfer’s elbow can happen to anyone.
Golfer’s elbow is a soft-tissue overuse injury at the point where your forearm muscle tendons attach to the bone on the inside of your elbow. When the injury is on the outside of the elbow, the condition is commonly called tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis.
The repetitive motion of swinging a golf club can put strain on a tendon, causing inner elbow pain.
“There are a lot of gripping mechanics that have to happen to be able to get a golf club through the ball and hit a ball consistently well, which can cause an elbow injury,” said Jeffrey S. Stephenson, M.D., sports medicine physician with Norton Orthopedic Institute.
Golfer’s elbow pain starts on the inner side of the elbow and can radiate down the inside of your forearm. Your elbow probably will be stiff, and clenching your fist can be painful. Sometimes there will be weakness in your hands and wrists and tingling or numbness on your ring and little finger.
Rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers typically will take care of the symptoms. If your pain is persistent or severe, contact your primary care provider about whether you need the expertise of a sports medicine specialist.
Pushing through the pain will make an injury worse. If rest, ice and ibuprofen or acetaminophen don’t bring pain relief, contact your primary care provider about treatment options.
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To protect against injury, stretch the affected tendons through simple wrist-stretching exercises, and make sure you are swinging properly.
“If you are concerned that you are having consistent pain with your swing, it may be worthwhile to have your swing checked out by a golf professional,” Dr. Stephenson said. “If there are certain mechanical issues with your swing, it makes you more susceptible to injury.”
The wrong clubs also can affect your mechanics and put strain on your elbow. Get advice on the correct length and weight for your body and your swing.
If you are a golfer, don’t push yourself. Play shorter rounds and play less frequently to allow your muscles and tendons to get back in shape. Take regular breaks whether on the course or the range and avoid sudden bursts of activity, which can increase the risk of injury.
Exercise to stretch the wrist flexor muscles in the forearm can improve your range of movement. Try this stretch twice a day:
Exercises can strengthen forearm and wrist muscles, helping build strength and endurance to support your elbow.
Try this exercise to target the forearm and wrist:
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