Foam Rolling for Golfer's Elbow
Written by Nic Bartolotta
Golfer's elbow can derail your golf career before it ever gets started. If you’re experiencing pain with your inner elbow and don’t know what to do, this foam rolling technique is for you.
We’re going to break down exactly what golfer’s elbow is, what’s causing it, and your symptoms. Then, our resident physical therapist, Nic Bartolotta, is going to walk you exactly through how to reduce your pain and treat your golfer’s elbow with the Rolflex foam roller in just 1-2 weeks.
What exactly is golfer’s elbow?
Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis) is a painful inner elbow condition that’s caused by repetitive strain on the muscles and tendons that control the wrist and fingers. If you golf regularly and are experiencing pain in your elbow even when you’re not swinging the club, you most likely have golfer’s elbow.
The elbow joint is made up of three bones, one from the upper arm (humerus) and two from the lower arm (ulna & radius). The tendons that control your wrist and fingers run through your elbow, connecting via the epicondyles, which are bumps on the end of the bones that make up the elbow.
There are two types of epicondyles: medial and lateral. The medial epicondyle is on the inside of your elbow and the lateral epicondyle is on the outside. Golfer’s elbow occurs when the tendons that attach to the medial (inside) epicondyle become inflamed as a result of excessive stress placed on them. Golfers are often diagnosed with this condition in their dominant arm, though it can also be caused by any activity that involves a lot of squeezing, twisting, and turning of the elbow and wrist.
For reference, an injury to the lateral epicondyle is called tennis elbow, which causes a similar pain on the outer elbow.
What causes golfer’s elbow?
As the name suggests, golf is the primary cause of golfer’s elbow. However, the condition also presents in:
- Throwing sports like baseball, softball, cricket javelin, and discus
- Weightlifters and powerlifters, due to the amount of time their forearm muscles spend under tension
- Individuals who type, write, sew, and garden regularly
- Manual laborers like plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, and gardeners
Symptoms of golfer’s elbow
If you golf and are experiencing inner elbow pain even when you’re not playing. But in any case, these are the symptoms of golfer’s elbow:
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
How to treat golfer’s elbow with the Rolflex foam roller
If left untreated for too long, you may need surgery to repair the damaged tendons, especially if you want to regain full strength & mobility in your lower arm. So instead, we’re going to show you a foam rolling technique 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.
Foam roll the forearm
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, all the way from the wrist up to just before the pain in your elbow.
It’s absolutely necessary that you avoid foam rolling directly over the inflamed area. This will aggravate the tendons and cause further pain & longer recovery times.
Continue this deep tissue massage for 30 seconds, making note of any particularly tender areas. Most of these will be within inches of your elbow.
ART: below the elbow
Now that you’ve primed the forearm muscles, it’s time to break down the scar tissue that’s causing you pain.
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 the muscle, move your wrist back and forth.
This technique is called active release therapy (ART), a form of self-myofascial release that breaks down and restores mobility in damaged muscle tissue. Tension is actively released as the myofascial tissue is stripped from the tendons.
Perform 5-10 repetitions of both wrist flexion (palm facing towards you) and extension (palm facing outwards). After that, perform 5-10 repetitions of both clockwise and counterclockwise wrist circles. These four movements will strip the hard, damaged tissue away from the tendon to reduce pain and promote healing.
ART: above the elbow
Slide the Rolflex above the elbow joint, without applying pressure as you pass over it. Position the foam roller so that it sits on the medial tricep, which attaches to the humerus.
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 5-10 repetitions. After that, rotate your arm both clockwise and counterclockwise for 5-10 repetitions, stripping down the tissue and releasing the tension from the area.
All in all, this technique should take just 3-5 minutes to complete. For best results, repeat this routine 2-3x per day. You should notice significant improvements in pain, tension, and mobility in 1-2 weeks.
Combined with rest, ice, and other mobility exercises, you should be back to normal in no time!
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 has subsided a bit, 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.