How to Relieve Golfer's Elbow Pain with Foam Rolling

foam roller demo for golfer's elbow

Written by Nic Bartolotta

Do you have a nagging pain on the inside of your elbow that just won’t go away? If you’re a frequent golfer, or you participate in an activity that requires repetitive arm movements, you may be suffering from golfer’s elbow. Here, we’ll walk you through a foam rolling technique you can use with the Rolflex arm massager to relieve your pain and treat the condition in just a few weeks.

What Is Golfer’s Elbow?

Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis) is a painful inner elbow condition caused by repetitive strain on the muscles and tendons that control the wrist and fingers. The elbow joint is made up of three bones: one from the upper arm (humerus) and two from the lower arm (ulna and radius). The tendons that control your wrist and fingers run through your elbow, connecting via the bumps, called epicondyles, that are on the ends of these below bones.

There are two types of epicondyles: medial (on the elbow’s inside) and lateral (on the elbow’s outside). When the tendons that attach to the medial epicondyle become inflamed as a result of excessive stress, the condition known as golfer’s elbow develops. While golfers are often diagnosed with this condition in their dominant arm, it can be caused by any activity that involves a lot of squeezing, twisting, and turning of the elbow and wrist. 

Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow

If you golf regularly and are experiencing pain in your elbow even when you’re not swinging a club, you likely have golfer’s elbow. Here are some other symptoms you may experience:

  • Pain and tenderness on your inner elbow, especially when making a fist
  • Stiffness and decreased range of motion
  • Aching pain in your forearm or wrist
  • Loss of grip strength
  • Numbness or tingling in your fingers

Who Is Affected by Golfer’s Elbow?

As the name suggests, golfer’s elbow is primarily associated with golfers. However, the condition also presents in people who perform repetitive motions in other activities, including:

  • Those who participate in sports like baseball, softball, cricket, javelin, and discus
  • Weightlifters and powerlifters
  • Individuals who type, write, sew, or garden regularly
  • Manual laborers like plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians

    Instantly relieve pain from Golfer’s Elbow with the Rolflex foam roller

    If you leave golfer’s elbow untreated for too long, you may need surgery to repair the damaged tendons, especially if you want to regain full strength and mobility in your lower arm. But here, we’ll explain how to use the Rolflex foam roller to treat your condition long before you need physical therapy or surgery.

    Our resident physical therapist Nic Bartolotta, MPT, HHP, is going to walk you through it. 

    First, Foam Roll the Forearm

    First, place your arm through the Rolflex handles and position the contoured foam roller on your inner forearm, below the tender area. Slide the roller back and forth over the inside of your forearm to warm up the muscles and begin breaking down the damaged scar tissue. 

    Massage the entire forearm, from the wrist all the way up to just before the pain in your elbow. Avoid foam rolling directly over the inflamed area, which will aggravate the tendons and cause further pain and longer recovery times. Continue this deep tissue massage for 30 seconds, making note of any particularly tender areas (most will be within inches of your elbow).

    Now that you’ve primed the forearm muscles, it’s time to break down the scar tissue that’s causing you pain using a technique called active release therapy (ART), a form of self-myofascial release (SMR). 

    Next, Practice ART Below the Elbow

    Place the Rolflex over one of the tender areas near your elbow — these are called trigger points. Gently squeeze the handles to apply pressure and flex your forearm muscles by forming a fist. While flexing, move your wrist back and forth. 

    Perform 5 to 10 repetitions of both wrist flexion (palm facing toward you) and extension (palm facing away from you). After that, perform 5 to 10 repetitions of both clockwise and counterclockwise wrist circles. These four movements will strip the hard, damaged tissue away from the tendon to relieve pain and promote healing. 

    Finally, Practice ART Above the Elbow

    Slide the Rolflex above the elbow joint without applying any pressure. Position the foam roller so it sits on the medial tricep, which attaches to the humerus (your upper arm bone). Just as you did with your wrist, bend and straighten your arm to flex the tricep muscle. As you do this, the contoured foam roller will break up the damaged tissue just above your elbow. 

    Bend and straighten your arm for a total of 5 to 10 repetitions. After that, rotate your arm both clockwise and counterclockwise for 5 to 10 repetitions, stripping down the tissue and releasing the tension from the area. 

    From start to finish, this technique should take just 3 to 5 minutes to complete. For the best results, repeat this routine 2 to 3 times per day in combination with rest, ice, and other mobility exercises. You should notice significant improvements in your pain, tension, and mobility in 1 to 2 weeks.

    How to Prevent Golfer’s Elbow

    To avoid golfer’s elbow, be consistent with your foam rolling routine and take breaks from repetitive motions to avoid overstraining your tendons. Consider having a coach observe your golf swing to check your technique and recommend any necessary adjustments. In general, focus on proper form, starting with your warmup and continuing all the way through your cooldown. By paying extra attention to how you’re moving your wrist and forearm, and making time for regular foam rolling, you’ll lower your chances of developing golfer’s elbow.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the fastest way to fix golfer’s elbow?

    Though it may not be what you want to hear, the fastest way to fix golfer’s elbow is rest. Once the pain and tenderness have been relieved, the most efficient treatment includes a combination of ice, foam rolling, mobility, and strength-training exercises. 

    What exercises should I avoid with golfer's elbow?

    Unfortunately, any exercise that involves you gripping a dumbbell, barbell, or pull-up bar will aggravate the tendonitis and delay your recovery. Additionally, you should avoid activities that place excessive strain on the area like writing, typing, gardening, and manual labor. 

    Can stretching cure golfer's elbow?

    No, stretching alone cannot cure golfer’s elbow. Outside of surgery and physical therapy, which are typically only needed in extreme cases, the best course of treatment includes rest, ice, foam rolling, stretching, and strengthening exercises.