If you’ve golfed for a while, you’ve probably felt it: that pain and stiffness in your elbow that makes swinging a club difficult.
It’s called golfer’s elbow, and it’s usually not a big deal. Here we’ll break down what it is, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
But first, we’re not doctors and this isn’t a substitute for medical advice. If you have extreme pain in your elbow or pain that doesn’t improve after a week or so, consult your doctor to make sure it’s not something more serious.
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What is Golfer’s Elbow?
Golfer’s elbow is a form of elbow tendinitis caused by repeated hand, wrist, and forearm motions. Performing the same motion, like swinging a club, over and over causes inflammation in the tendons that connect your forearm and elbow. You’ll feel the most pain around the bony bump on the inside of your elbow but the pain can radiate down to your forearm.
Despite the name, golfer’s elbow isn’t exclusive to golfers. Any activity that causes you to overuse those tendons can leave you with golfer’s elbow. Tennis players, bowlers, and pitchers are also susceptible to golfer’s elbow.
How to Treat Golfer’s Elbow
First, it’s important to know that golfer’s elbow is extremely common and typically isn’t serious. You can treat it at home, but if it doesn’t improve after a week or so, see your doctor.
Here are some at-home treatments to get your elbow feeling better fast:
- Take an OTC pain reliever like Advil, Tylenol, or Motrin.
- Rest your arm and take a few days to a week away from the activity that caused your tendinitis. Playing through the pain will only make it worse and let’s be real, your game won’t be great if you’re playing while you’re hurt.
- Ice it for 15-20 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day. You can use a good old zip-top bag full of ice or one of these handy flexible ice packs that wrap right around your elbow.
- Wear a brace to help reduce strain on those tendons while you’re healing. This compression brace was made with athletes in mind and comes in a wide variety of sizes for both men and women.
- Stretch your elbow and do simple exercises to strengthen it. Simple stretching and exercising can help you heal faster and reduce the likelihood of straining your elbow in the future.
Stretches for Golfer’s Elbow
These stretches combined with the treatments above will get you on the road to recovery:
- Hold your injured arm out straight in front of you and bend your wrist forward (making a “stop” motion) and back (holding your hand down at a 90 degree angle) for 1-2 sets of 15.
- Take that stretch to the next level by using your other hand to gently apply pressure to your hand in each position. Do 1-2 more sets of 15.
- Hold your injured arm down by your side and bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle with your palm up. Hold for 5 seconds, then rotate your arm so your palm is facing down and hold for another 5 seconds. Repeat this for 1-2 sets of 15.
Golfer’s Elbow Exercises
When your pain is almost gone, you can start doing some strengthening exercises to help prevent golfer’s elbow in the future. Start with these exercises:
- Put your injured arm on a tabletop, bent at a 90-degree angle, with your palm facing up. Make a fist and slowly bring it up in a curling motion. You can use your other hand to apply gentle resistance. Do 1-2 sets of 15 reps.
- With your arm in the same position, turn your hand so that your palm is facing down. Make a fist and slowly bring it up as you did before. Again, you can apply gentle resistance with your other hand. Do 1-2 sets of 15 reps.
- Add weight, like a 2-3lb dumbbell, to either of these exercises for more strength building.
The Bottom Line With Golfer’s Elbow
When you start feeling your golf game in your elbow, remember that rest, ice, and stretching are the best things you can do to start feeling better faster.