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Safe Golfer's Elbow Stretches

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT June 23, 2021 0 Comments

woman golfer elbow stretch

Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, isn’t just caused by a golf swing. Excessive wrist use, gripping, throwing, and continuous work with the hands can also be a culprit. If you’re dealing with pain and inflammation caused by golfer’s elbow, stretches can help prevent, manage, and reduce the severity of symptoms. Keep scrolling to find the best stretches recommended by our physical therapists for those who suffer from golfer’s elbow.

Wrist and Elbow Stretches

With golfer’s elbow, the wrist flexor muscles that run across the forearm and connect the medial elbow (the inside bony edge of the elbow) to the front of the wrist and fingers are most affected. These muscles help bend or flex the wrist and fingers. This is why pain is most common on the inside of the elbow, similar to a tennis elbow injury. Here are some stretches you should try:

Wrist Flexor Stretch

This exercise directly stretches the front forearm muscles that are most inflamed with golfer’s elbow. Thus, start gently with this stretch and never force it. 

  • Straighten your affected arm out in front of you with your palm facing up toward the ceiling
  • Keep the elbow straight as you use your opposite hand to gently extend the wrist back, bringing the fingers closer to the floor into extension
  • For a deeper stretch, make sure the fingers are straight or even extended too
  • Hold the stretch for 20+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each wrist 

Wrist Extensor Stretch

This stretch addresses the muscles in the forearm that attach to the opposite side of the forearm, the lateral epicondyle. While these muscles aren’t primarily affected with golfer’s elbow  (like they are with tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis), general inflammation in the elbow can leave all the muscles of the arm feeling stiff and in need of a stretch.

  • Place your arm straight out in front of you with the palm facing down toward the floor
  • Keep your elbow straight as you use your opposite hand to gently bend the wrist down toward the floor into flexion
  • For a deeper stretch, you can curl the fingers into a ball as you flex the wrist
  • Hold this stretch for 20+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each wrist as needed

Wrist Range of Motion with a Massage Ball

This exercise is a stretch and massage combination move that can help loosen stiff wrist muscles. Grab a lacrosse ball to get started, either a single or double ball will work. 

  • Sit at a table with your lacrosse ball 
  • Rest the palm side of your forearm on the ball near the elbow (but not on the elbow joint or bones to avoid irritation)
  • Gently roll the up and down the entire forearm on the ball 
  • Keep the arm as relaxed as possible against the ball, choosing a pressure that you tolerate without excessive muscle guarding or severe pain
  • As you are rolling slowly back and forth, when you come to any particularly sore spots, stop and move the entire wrist up and down a few times to further loosen the muscles
  • Repeat as needed on any sore sports for up to 5 minutes
  • Additionally, you can turn your arm so that palm is facing up and also massage the wrist muscles on this side too

Upper Body & Arm Stretches

When the wrist, forearm, and elbow are affected by golfer’s elbow, it can also cause a lot of stiffness “up the chain” in the rest of the arm and upper body. Plus, secondary problems like poor posture and cervical nerve damage can perpetuate or aggravate elbow pain and inflammation as well. Thus, some basic stretches for the upper body can help a lot.

Foam Roller Snow Angels

Chest and pec muscles get notoriously tight with poor posture and can affect nerve and muscle health in the rest of the arm when everything gets out of balance. Thus, regularly paying attention to your posture and stretching the pecs can help secondarily with elbow pain.

  • Grab a foam roller to get started, if you don’t have a foam roller you can just lie on the floor or try rolling up a beach towel
  • Lie on the foam roller with it vertically underneath your entire spine, make sure it is supporting your head, spine, and butt
  • Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor for support
  • Let both of your arms rest on the ground with your palms facing up toward the ceiling
  • Keeping your arms touching the ground and relaxed, slowly bring your arms up toward your head
  • Move up as far as you can until you feel a strong stretch in the pec, do not force it
  • Stop and hold for 1-3 seconds before returning to the starting position
  • Repeat 10-15 times total, trying to increase your shoulder range with each repetition
  • If you are having trouble coordinating the movement, simply hold the stretch at the top of your range for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets

Seated Neck and Shoulder Stretch

Stiff neck and shoulder muscles can compress nerves that innervate the elbow and exacerbate (or even cause) your symptoms. Try this neck stretch for better balance and pain relief.

  • Sit or stand comfortably in good posture with your shoulders back and the top of the head up toward the ceiling
  • To stretch the right side of the neck, primarily the upper trapezius, bring your left hand over the top your head and rest it on the right side of your head near your ear
  • Bring your left ear toward your left shoulder as you use your left arm to guide the head
  • Keep your nose pointing straight forward (no rotation) and move until you feel a stretch in the right side of the neck
  • Apply gentle overpressure with your left hand as tolerated
  • Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each side

Seated Thoracic Extension

Thoracic spine, or mid-back, extension will help to is the last optimizes your upper body mechanics and balance. Proper thoracic extension ensures the upper chain, especially the shoulder and elbow, can efficiently move without injury.

  • Sit in a chair with a supportive back
  • The back of the chair should hit you somewhere in the mid-back
  • Bring your butt as far back in the chair as possible while holding good posture with the entire spine
  • Next, bend your elbows and bring both hands behind your head to rest at the base of your skull, your elbows should be flared out to each side
  • First, take a deep breath
  • As you exhale, bring your elbows and chest up toward the ceiling to extend the mid-back
  • Imagine using the back of the chair as a pivot point for extending the mid back
  • Do not pull on the neck as you move
  • Hold your thoracic spine in extension for 10-20 seconds before returning to the starting position
  • You may notice a pop in the mid-back with movement, this is okay as long as it isn’t painful (in fact, it should be relieving) 
  • Repeat 5-10 times as needed

Stretching Tips

Follow these simple tips to maximize your stretching routine:

  • Always use your symptoms as a gauge for how deep and how often to stretch

  • Warm the muscles up first with heat, massage, and/or electrical stimulation as needed

  • Pair your stretching routine with other home treatment options

    Treatments for Golfer’s Elbow

  • Perform and wrist strengthening exercises to optimize the recovery process

    Exercises for Golfer’s Elbow

  • Use additional support when returning to daily activities or swinging a golf club; such as, elbow taping or an elbow brace

  • Minimize elbow aggravation with both daily activities and sleep by keeping your elbow in a comfortable position.

    How to Sleep with Golfer’s Elbow

  • If you are feeling unsure of where to get started or want some further guidance on your exercise program, consider physical therapy. A physical therapist can give you personalized recommendations for posture, mechanics, pain relief, and your home exercise program

Moving Onto Exercises

When you are feeling comfortable with your stretching routine, it’s time to start adding in wrist strengthening exercises too with movements (like wrist flexion, extension, pronation, and supination with dumbbells). This will help further boost circulation for healing and overall wrist function. With a true understanding of golfer’s elbow and a balanced exercise program that includes both stretches and strengthening exercises, you can expect much quicker relief and fewer issues down the road. If you experience a sudden change in symptoms or they are not getting better within a week or two, get in touch with your doctor or another trusted healthcare professional for medical advice as soon as possible.

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/exercises-for-golfers-elbow-2

https://www.choosept.com/symptomsconditionsdetail/physical-therapy-guide-to-medial-epicondylitis-golfers-elbow

https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=av2582

SHOP Golfer's Elbow

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Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.



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