What is Golfer’s Elbow and How to Fix It

physio london golfer's elbow wrist pain Physiotherapy in London

Welcome to the One Body guide to Golfer’s Elbow. In this guide, we’ll explore what Golfer’s Elbow is, its symptoms, and how physiotherapy can effectively treat this common condition. 

Despite the name, you don’t have to be a golfer to suffer from this type of elbow pain; it can affect anyone who performs repetitive wrist and arm movements. Our expert physiotherapists at One Body London will guide you through understanding the causes, recognising the symptoms, and exploring the best physiotherapy treatments to alleviate your pain and restore function. 

P.S. Golfer’s elbow is actually a form of tendonitis. You can learn more about this in our Physio Guide to Tendonitis Treatment.

Medial Epicondylitis

The medical term for golfer’s elbow is a bit of a mouthful! Referred to as medial epicondylitis (or sometimes medial epicondylopathy), this condition is a repetitive strain injury that mainly impacts individuals over the age of 40. It’s caused by repeatedly moving your forearm and wrist, applying pressure until the area is strained.

Golfer’s elbow presents with pain in your inner elbow – hence the name – but is actually caused by inflammation of the tendons. These tendons attach the flexor muscles in your forearm to the medial epicondyle in your elbow. So, when your forearm muscles are strained and overused, small tears and inflammation occur in the tendons, thus giving you elbow pain.

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What Causes Golfer’s Elbow?

First, golf. Frequently swinging or gripping a golf club incorrectly puts strain on the forearm muscles leading to this condition. But you don’t need to be Tiger Woods to get golfer’s elbow. At One Body, we often see this condition present in people who suddenly take on a new activity – like gardening in the spring or a new sport. The sudden increase in repetitive movements triggers the condition.

Golfer’s elbow is also quite common for those who spend all day moving a mouse or typing on a keyboard. These repetitive motions are particularly damaging when you hold your wrists at an awkward angle. Another cause of golfer’s elbow is repetitive use of vibrating tools and devices – construction workers are susceptible to this.

Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow

The symptoms of golfer’s elbow may include:

  • Inner elbow pain when moving your wrist,
  • Inner elbow tenderness,
  • Waking up with a stiff elbow,
  • Redness and heat (signs of inflammation).

These symptoms tend to flare up first thing in the morning and when you move your wrist in a twisting, pulling, gripping or lifting motion.

Golfer’s elbow symptoms are often confused with other conditions, like the more common tennis elbow. This is why it’s important to see a physiotherapist or doctor so you can get an accurate diagnosis. With a diagnosis, you can find the treatment that’s most effective.

Can Physio Help?

Short answer: yes. Physiotherapy is the best course of action for golfer’s elbow and most cases will clear up in 6 months or so.

Physiotherapy is ideal for treating golfer’s elbow because it addresses both the symptoms and the underlying causes of this painful condition. We work to soothe your pain and improve mobility while also strengthening your arm and educating you to prevent further damage to the tendons.

While some cases of golfer’s elbow will clear up by themselves with rest, you shouldn’t bank on that happening for you. Without proper treatment, golfer’s elbow can become chronic, leading to persistent pain and potentially causing further tendon damage. 

The NHS recommends physiotherapy as an effective treatment for golfer’s elbow, but opting for private physiotherapy allows you to bypass long waiting lists and receive immediate care. If you have private health insurance, you can access these treatments for free too. Learn more about how we can help you through your private health insurance policy at One Body London.

How Physio Works

Physiotherapy focuses on conservative treatments that are highly effective in managing and alleviating the pain that comes with golfer’s elbow. Your physiotherapist will guide you through specific exercises designed to strengthen the forearm muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce strain on the tendons. They will also provide practical advice on modifying activities to prevent further injury. By following a tailored physiotherapy program, you can manage golfer’s elbow effectively without the need for surgery, promoting quicker recovery and preventing future flare-ups.

To learn more about what physiotherapy involves and the practice in general, read our Ultimate Guide to Physiotherapy next!

Golfer’s Elbow Treatments

Physiotherapists treat golfer’s elbow by putting together a tailored treatment plan that addresses your specific needs. We start with an assessment to rule out any other potential causes of golfer’s elbow and confirm your diagnosis. Only then will we move onto the treatment stage.

Physiotherapy treatments are highly effective for reducing pain, improving mobility, and hopefully speeding up the recovery process! Your physiotherapist will guide you through targeted exercises designed to strengthen the affected area and restore function. Additionally, we may recommend braces to support and protect your elbow during activities, as well as suggest lifestyle changes and ergonomic adjustments to prevent further strain.

Your exact treatment plan will be tailored to your specific needs, but it’s likely to include manual therapy to massage the muscles and mobilize the elbow joint. We might also recommend treatments like acupuncture and shockwave therapy depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Golfer’s Elbow Exercises

For treating golfer’s elbow, our physiotherapists often recommend a variety of exercises focused on stretching and strengthening the forearm muscles. Stretching exercises help to improve flexibility and reduce tension in the tendons. Strengthening exercises, including both eccentric (lengthening the muscle under tension) and concentric (shortening the muscle under tension) wrist stretches, are particularly effective. 

Eccentric wrist stretches involve slowly lowering a weight to extend the wrist, while concentric wrist stretches involve lifting the weight to flex the wrist. These exercises help to build strength and resilience in the forearm muscles, aiding in recovery and preventing future injuries.

Don’t worry, we’ll take you through these exercises during your physiotherapy session. You can also easily practice these exercises at home.

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Golfer’s Elbow Brace

Using a brace for golfer’s elbow can be an effective part of your treatment plan in the later stages. The brace applies pressure just below your inner elbow, which helps to reduce the strain on your tendons. This support is especially useful when you return to your usual activities, as it helps to ease you back in with a gradual increase in intensity. 

By alleviating pressure on the tendons, the brace not only reduces pain but also encourages proper movement. This ensures that you move in a way that prevents further injury, promoting a smoother and safer recovery process.

We’ll explain the correct way to move – whether you’re swinging a golf club, working on your computer or just lifting and moving objects – so you can work to prevent any future cases of tendonitis.

Changing Activities

Switching up your usual activities is crucial when treating golfer’s elbow. Your physiotherapist will advise you on the importance of resting and stopping certain activities until your tendons can heal. 

Modifying your usual activities will ensure you can continue working or enjoying your hobbies without causing further injury. Whether it’s adjusting your grip, changing your technique, or taking regular breaks, these modifications will help you stay engaged in your routine while promoting a safer and quicker recovery. 

We’ll also recommend alternative exercises you can try so you can keep active during rest without putting strain on your elbow. 

Taking Breaks

Finally, taking regular breaks as you return to your usual routine is a key part of the recovery process. Golfer’s elbow is a repetitive strain injury, so if you immediately go back to your old routine of consistently putting excessive strain on your wrist, your symptoms will come right back again!

Part of the physiotherapy process for golfer’s elbow is education. We’ll take you through how to rest, when to move, and how to manage your symptoms. Your physiotherapist can also advise you on medications to reduce pain and inflammation as well as manual therapy techniques they recommend to ease your symptoms.

To learn more about how physiotherapy for golfer’s elbow works at One Body London, explore our London physiotherapy services today.

FAQs

How do you fix golfer’s elbow?

To fix golfer’s elbow, you need to rest and allow your tendons time to heal. Taking an active approach, following a physiotherapist’s advice for stretching and strengthening exercises, will help this process. To manage the pain and inflammation, try ice packs or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkillers.

How is golfer’s elbow different to tennis elbow?

In layman’s terms, golfer’s elbow is pain focused on the inner elbow while tennis elbow is pain focused on the outer elbow. Both are specific types of tendonitis.

What not to do with golfer’s elbow?

Don’t push your wrist or arm to move in a way that’s painful and avoid any sudden or jolting movements. You need rest and the help of a physiotherapist to treat your condition!

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Rebecca Bossick CEO/Clinical Director
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