Golfers Elbow Explained

by Robert Lim

What is Golfer's Elbow?

Golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, can debilitate one’s golf game and lifestyle. This condition occurs when the tendons attached to the medial epicondyle become inflamed from either overworking or an acute injury. These tendons are the prime movers of wrist flexion, a component of one’s golf swing.


Golfer’s elbow is not limited to the sport of golf. This condition can occur in racquet sports like tennis as well. Individuals at a higher risk include over 40 years old, perform repetitive activities for more than 2 hours a day, are obese, or are a smoker.


Golfer’s elbow can present with many symptoms such as pain and tenderness, stiffness, weakness, numbness, and tingling. Symptoms can hinder one’s golf swing and restrict everyday activities such as carrying groceries, opening a jar in the kitchen, and using a screwdriver or hammer for household projects.

Many people have heard of tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, similar to golfers elbow. It should be known that you can get golfers elbow with other activities other than golf. 

elbow tendon illustration of golfers elbow tendonitisTennis or Golfer's Elbow

For instance, a tennis player can get golfer's elbow from playing tennis. The big difference between golfers elbow and tennis elbow is that golfers elbow is felt on the inside of the elbow, and tennis elbow is felt on the outside of the elbow. Watch this VIDEO on why elbow pain can't wait for care.

This is because your wrist flexors, which are what is inflamed with golfers elbow, originate on the inside of the elbow. Whereas your wrist extensors, which are inflamed with tennis elbow, develop on the outside of the elbow.

Symptoms of Golfer Elbow:

  • Weakness in the hand or wristTennis or Golfers Elbow tendonitis is felt on the elbow tendonGolfer's Elbow
  • Numbness or tingling in hand or wrist
  • Pain or tenderness on the inside of the elbow or knowledge of the forearm
  • Difficulty gripping things

The most common golf elbow symptom is pain along the palm side of the forearm that moves along the elbow to the wrist.  Discomfort may be present when bending the wrist towards the palm or when squeezing an object.  Other symptoms that may be present are tenderness on the inside part of the elbow with palpation.  You may also feel stiffness with decreased range of motion.  Lastly, you also might have weakness in your hands and wrist.


Will Golf Elbow Heal on its Own?

Quick answer yes. Golfers elbow should heal on its own if you are good at it.  Since golfers elbow is a repetitive strain injury, the way that you can heal it is rest and just pure healing time.  The best thing to do is to avoid the motion that causes pain.  Once the pain and discomfort start to decrease, it’s advisable to return to activity slowly.

How is Golfer’s Elbow Treated?

Treatment for Golfer’s elbow consists of rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, or other non-conventional modalities such as a medical laser. Once severe symptoms begin to decrease, treatment focuses on stretching and strengthening the wrist flexor tendons. When symptoms and/or medical clearance allows, the next goal is easing back into your activity. Initially, one should find a way to decrease the elbow load with these activities using an ace bandage or some compression garment.


As symptoms allow, one can gradually ease dependence on this garment. The focus of reduced risk of Golfer’s elbow is much like the treatment. Prevention should consist of specific strengthening of the tendons that flex and extend the wrist and stretch the tendons' specific stretching that flex and extend the wrist. Additional stretching before extended activities is essential as well.

Golfer Elbow Physical Therapy

In some instances, patients try newer treatments such as PRP injections or Medical Laser to help reduce inflammation and aid in the inflammatory process. 

Medical laser therapy is one of the best treatments for golfers elbowMedical Laser treatment for Golfer's Elbow

Once inflammation begins being addressed, treatment typically consists of physical therapy or occupational therapy focused on improving wrist and forearm flexibility and strength to reduce the stress to the wrist's tendons. 

A common treatment that may aid in improving flexibility is the Graston Technique, which focuses on reducing scar tissue formation and reducing myofascial restrictions to promote optimal tissue mobility and range of motion. 

Graston technique is one of the best treatments for golf elbowThe Graston Technique for Golf Elbow


With strengthening, exercises would be focused on improving wrist and forearm strength to allow for activities without increased stress to the forearm/wrist tendons, resulting in inflammation. 

In the later stages of physical therapy or occupational therapy biomechanics specific to the sport or recreational activity may be analyzed in order to determine if there are any deficits which may be contributing to golfer’s elbow outside of general strength and flexibility deficits in the elbow, forearm, and/or wrist. 

For instance, with a golfer, their golf swing may be analyzed for any deficiencies.  Tennis and Golfer's Elbow Therapy can be done at any of the 12 JOI Rehab Locations. 

Will a Golfers Elbow Brace Work?

Golfers elbow braces may or may not work for each individual.  Since there are multiple types of braces on the market, you might have to try each one that works for you.  For braces to work properly, they must fit and be placed correctly to decrease pain in the area.  To select the correct golfer's elbow brace, please go to this GOLFERS BRACE ARTICLE.

A golfers elbow brace can help with golfers elbow pain as it stabilizes the elbow tendonGolfers elbow brace may help with the pain.


Best Exercises for Golfers Elbow

Golfer’s Elbow Exercises – Stretching and Strengthening


Stretching and strengthening are important parts of the rehabilitation process and should begin as soon as pain allows.  


Wrist flexor stretch:

wrist flexor stretch is one of the best exercises for golfers elbowWrist Flexor Stretch

•Hold stretches for 10 – 15 seconds
•Stretches should be held for up to 40 seconds.
•Repeat stretches 5 times and aims to try at least three times a day

Isometric wrist strengthening (extension) 

Isometric wrist strengthening (extension) is one of the best exercises for golfers elbowIsometric wrist strengthening (extension)

•While seated, place your affected forearm on a table or the arm of a chair with your palm facing down.
•Place your opposite hand on the back of your affected hand.
•Press your affected hand up, using your opposite hand to create resistance by pressing down.
•Continue for 10 seconds, slowly increasing the resistance.
•Complete 15 reps.

Isometric wrist strengthening (flexion)

Isometric wrist strengthening (flexion) is one of the best exercises for golf elbowIsometric wrist strengthening (flexion)

•While seated, rest your affected forearm on a table or the arm of a chair with your palm facing up.
•Press your opposite palm into your affected hand.
•Press your affected hand upwards as you use your opposite hand to create resistance by pressing down.
•Continue for 10 seconds, slowly increasing the resistance.
•Complete 15 reps.

Resisted wrist extension 

Resisted wrist extension is one of the best exercises for golfing elbowResisted wrist extension

•While seated, hold a weight (start light) with your affected arm.
•Place your forearm on a table or the arm of a chair with your hand over the edge and your palm facing down.
•Slowly lower your hand down before raising it back to the original position.
•Complete 1–3 sets of 15 reps.

Resisted wrist flexion 

Resisted wrist flexion is one of the best exercises for golfer elbowResisted wrist flexion

•While seated, hold a weight ( start light ) with your affected arm.
•Place your forearm on a table or the arm of a chair with your hand over the edge and your palm facing up.
•Slowly lower your hand down before raising it back to the original position.
•Complete 1–3 sets of 15 reps.


Tennis and Golf Elbow Treatment in Jacksonville

Although Golfer’s elbow can be a debilitating injury that can limit tolerance of ADL's, recreational activities, and sports, it should be known that there are many successful conservative treatment options to return one to these activities without limitations and reduced risk of injury/re-injury.  

The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute will continue to monitor the latest developments of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our patients, families, and caregivers. To read more about our safety measures, go to JOI4U. JOI & JOI Rehab encourages all patients to wear a mask to their appointment. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should contact 904-JOI-2000 prior to your scheduled appointment. To adhere to the national social distancing request, please do not bring family members to your appointment unless they are needed for translation or transportation.  You can also complete all of your new patient paperwork from home. To request registration paperwork from home, click HERE.


If you would like to learn more from the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute, call JOI-2000 or schedule online.


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