If your latest golf adventures have left you with pain in your elbow, you may have medial epicondylitis, better known as golfer’s elbow. Inflammation in a tendon on the inside of your elbow is the cause of your discomfort. If it gets worse, you could be putting your clubs in the closet for a while. Fortunately, proper stretching can relieve the pain and keep you on the course.
To get your elbow bending painlessly again, you need to stretch the muscles and connective tissue around the elbow. These stretches will work the muscles in your upper arm and forearm that connect with your elbow. Do the exercises with both arms. Even if you are not experiencing pain in both elbows, they can lessen or prevent future injury.
Wrist Flexor Stretch
This stretch works the affected area directly. You will feel it on the inside of your forearm and elbow. Extend your arm in front of you with your palm facing up. With the other hand, grasp the fingers of the extended hand and pull back and down toward the floor like you are trying to point your palms forward. Don't try to force the movement. You want a gentle stretch, not a tearing sensation. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
Wrist Extension Stretch
Extend your arm in front with the palm facing down. Use your other hand to push down on the back of the extended hand, trying to point the fingers toward the ground so your palms will point back to you. As with any stretch, move smoothly and stop if you feel any sharp pain. Hold for 30 seconds. You should feel this stretch on the outside of your elbows.
To stretch the muscles in the back of your upper arm, reach your arm over your head. Let your forearm drop until your hand is touching the back of your neck. Put your other hand on top of your elbow and push down gently. The downward push is a small movement. Don't try to push the arm too far behind your back. Hold for 30 seconds.
Start by standing with your arms hanging down at your sides. Raise your arms 5 or 6 inches until your upper arms are lifted a few inches away from your rib cage. Point your palms in front of you. Gently straighten your arms and pull them back until you feel a stretch in the top of your upper arm. You may also feel this stretch in the front of your shoulder and outer part of your chest. Hold for 30 seconds.
Think about taking a few days off from golf if you are suffering from golfer’s elbow. Repeated stress is one of the most common causes of the inflamed tendon at the root of the condition. If you experience elbow pain for more than a few days, get a doctor’s opinion before you attempt to treat yourself. Your doctor may want to get an MRI to determine if there is any serious damage. Occasionally, golfer’s elbow requires anti-inflammatory medications or cortisone injections before it gets better.
David Raudenbush has more than 20 years of experience as a literacy teacher, staff developer and literacy coach. He has written for newspapers, magazines and online publications, and served as the editor of "Golfstyles New Jersey Magazine." Raudenbush holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education.