Golfer's Elbow? First Steps to Treatment

Photo of golfer holding his elbow.
Start your self-care regimen right away when you feel golfer's elbow. Jeannot Olivet/Getty Images

If you have golfer's elbow, or medial epicondylitis, you may benefit from physical therapy to help you manage the pain and improve your ability to use your elbow and arm normally.  Your physical therapist can show you various exercises to do to help improve your elbow and wrist range of motion and strength, and he or she may use various therapeutic modalities and treatments to help your condition.

Whenever golfer's elbow, or any other musculoskeletal condition, strikes, there are a few things you should do immediately to start to care for your condition.  By doing the correct things during the acute phase of your condition, you can be sure to quickly be free of pain and back to your normal activities.

Here are a few things to start right away to get treating your golfer's elbow:

  1. Follow the R.I.C.E. protocol.  The acronym R.I.C.E. stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.  It is recommend to that you apply ice and compression to your elbow when acute pain strikes.  Rest your arm for a bit, and try to keep it elevated, especially if swelling is visible in the medial aspect of your arm where your muscles attach to your medial epicondyle.  Some physical therapists recommend following the P.O.L.I.C.E. method, which stands for protection, optimal loading, ice, compression and elevation.  Optimal loading is simply performing the correct golfer's elbow exercises at the correct time to optimize the healing potential of your elbow muscles.
  1. Avoid golf or any other aggravating activity.  When you start feeling medial elbow pain, you should avoid those activities that may be causing the pain.  If impact with the golf ball during your golf swing is causing your pain, perhaps it may be best to take a few weeks off from walking the links and allow your elbow to rest.  If other activities, such as lifting things or typing on your computer, is causing your pain, try to avoid these aggravating activities. 
  1. Visit your doctor or physical therapist for an accurate diagnosis of your elbow pain.  There are many different causes of elbow pain, and it is a good idea to check in with your doctor before starting any treatment for your elbow.  This is especially true if trauma, such as a fall or a sports injury, caused your pain.  Your doctor can take an x-ray to rule out a serious elbow fracture, and your PT can help you determine the cause of your pain.  Your therapist can also teach you about your condition and what to avoid to prevent a long term problems with elbow pain.
  2. Learn exercises to do for your golfer's elbow.  One of the most important things you can do for your golfer's elbow is to start gentle exercises to help restore normal mobility to your wrist and elbow.  Your physical therapist can teach you a golfer's elbow home exercise program that you can perform daily to get back to normal activity.
  3. Gradually return to activity.  When your golfer's elbow pain decreases, you may feel ready to get back to normal activities.  Remember to return to sports or activities that place stress through your elbow slowly and gradually.  Jumping right in to your previous activity level without gradually building up tolerance to those activities may set you up for a re-exacerbation of your golfer's elbow. 

    When the medial elbow pain of golfer's elbow strikes, it is important to get to work right away to quickly abolish your pain and get back to your normal activities.  Visit your doctor or PT, and then start your golfer's elbow self-care regimen to help you return to your previous level of activity and function quickly and safely.

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