Golfer’s Elbow – A Possible Solution?

Around 2004 I started to climb indoors a lot – as in 4 times a week or more. As you might expect, my grades started to creep upwards but at the very same time I developed a nasty case of Golfer’s Elbow. That deep pain on the inner side of your elbow (the fancy word being medial epicondylitis) which only seems to get deeper and more excruciating the more you lock-off or do pull-ups. Know the feeling?


Like many other climbers I sought the advice of the internet and a series of physios. I tried the usual methods; rest, ice, hot-cold treatment, massage, anti-inflammatory medicine, postural correcting exercises and lots of antagonist work. I must have spent a good £1000 or so seeing different people, buying books and feeding my growing Ibuprofen habit. Unfortunately though, nothing seemed to hit the spot. Every person I asked recommended some kind of combination of the above, but I started to get frustrated as the pain continued to get worse. Eventually I made the hard decision to take some time out from climbing and training as I knew no other solution. 

Just as I’d made this decision I coincidentally got talking to one of the GB Senior Team members called Drew Haigh (I was managing the team at the time) about my plight and he showed me an exercise a yoga teacher had showed him for Golfer’s Elbow. Drew sounded really convinced about this “magical stretch” that he had been taught, but I remained sceptical as nothing had worked until this point. I got the beta off Drew at a training session and guess what………. 2 weeks later my Golfer’s Elbow had totally disappeared! I couldn’t believe it. Two years of pain had been removed in 2 weeks. 

The Stretch

I have no idea what this exercise is called, but hopefully with the aid of the following photos and a little description some people out there may benefit in the same way as I did. I’ve shown this stretch to a number of people I’ve coached over the years and it has to be said that it’s not always successful – it’s seems to work best when none of the conventional approaches (physio, antagonists, NSAIDS) work. Give it a try though – you’ll only have wasted a few minutes if it doesn’t work. 

The start pose – the position that you’re aiming to hold with your arms is that shown in the picture below. You want your palms facing outwards and for your elbows to almost touch in the middle – it feels quite awkward to hold this position. You should note that in the correct position your elbows should be about the height of your belly-button and inside the line of your body i.e. arms not lying down the side of your body. Got that so far?

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The finish pose – ok, so with that in mind, you now have to perform that same arm positioning, but on the ground lying on your front! This means that you’ll be lying on top of your arms and your bodyweight is forcing your arms and elbows into a nice straight/open position. Note that it’s really important that you do this exercise on a solid floor (not soft matting) as you don’t want to be able to hyper-extend your elbows. In this position you should feel a nice stretch – if it feels painful, then stop! I find looking straight at the ground in front of me or to one side is most comfortable with the neck.

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The movements – once you’ve gained confidence with the initial positioning and you’re happy that there’s no undue pain, then you can try raising one leg at a time (I do reps of 10) which results in the front of your hip bone pushing into the back of your forearm giving extra stretch. The leg needs to be raised out 10inches or so off the ground and I do just 10 reps on each leg. Once done, I get up off the floor shake my arms out, and get back to whatever I was doing 2 minutes earlier!

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Below is a quick shot of the back of the forearm to show you the point at which it makes contact with the front of your hip bone once you’re lying on top of your arms.

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If this helps one person, then it’s all worth it! Please do pass on the information if you find it useful and I only came across it by word of mouth from Drew. I owe you big time Drew!

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57 thoughts on “Golfer’s Elbow – A Possible Solution?

  1. Just started this today, been suffering from lowish level golfers since upping pull ups and lock offs this year. Eased off on both of these exercises so it’ll b interesting to see how it goes.
    Rich

  2. Thanks a lot for taking the time to share this knowledge Tom! I’ve been doing the stretch regularly since I first saw it on your blog. I’m confident now to say It’s definitely really helped my elbows – they’re the best they’ve been since early 2009 and by a fair margin too. So, thanks again!

  3. Tom,

    Big thanks for sharing this procedure.
    A friend of mine suggested it is based on yoga Locust Pose Salabhasana.

    I have been practicing it for weeks now and I can confirm it significantly eased back elbow pain
    that I usually suffered in morning on next day after hard training session.

    Big cheers!

  4. Great article, this should certainly help. You are correct about your feelings about the common remedies. Rest is the most useless solution unless you plan not to use the arm anymore. It will heal but the instant you use it again, it will come back. Rest will cause the muscle to become weaker than before, and therefore amplifying the problem next time. I was a personal trainer for a few years and have been in the gym most of my life. I have had tendonitis in almost everyplace you can get it. It usually comes when the area is too weak for the activity. Most people get this type, in the gym, when they do curls because the forearm is too weak to handle the activity. Curls are fun, forearms are not, so they are weak from lack of use. Strengthen the forearm and the pain will go away, just as you described, very quickly. Include lightweight wrist curls. By lightweight I mean where you can do 50 reps or so and with little pain. Do this three times a week, include stretching as described and bang it’s gone in no time, completely. Sounds counter to what the doctors tell you but it works. Rest, ice, and heat can help correct the problem but they don’t fix why it happened in the first place. Good job on the article!!! This problem is too easy to solve to have people spending lots of money on it.

    • I have been doing it for two weeks now and I can say that it works, really! It is fantastic! My elbow pain lasted for one year and a half and now is almost dissapeared. Thank you for the advice.

  5. Thanks Tom, this has really helped. I have been using it as a way to cure my Golfers Elbow and part of my warm up and it is really working.

    • Warm-up? This is quite a stretching and I don’t think stretching forearms this way before any serious workout for climbing (bouldering, beastmaker, campus, and similar) is a good idea. It should be part of post-workout cool-down

  6. Great blog Tom. I’m in the same position from too much paddling (canoes) but have Tennis Elbow which is the same problem but on the outer side of the elbow (lateral epicondylitis). Any ideas what exercise might work for this? I guess I need to find someone like Drew or his yoga teacher! Anyhow I will pass this onto my outdoor buddies who have medial epicondylitis. Cheers.

  7. This plus forearm massage has worked better for me than anything else, including strengthening and pronator stretches.

    Thanks for posting!

    • Hey David, what stretching-technique are you applying for the pronator? My doctor identified the pronator as the prime cause for my Elbow-trouble, but couldn’t really show me a proper way to stretch it. How do you do it? Thanks in advance!

  8. Pingback: TaiwanRocks.net » Blog Archive » The Ultimate Guide to Climber’s Elbow

  9. Pingback: TaiwanRocks.net » Blog Archive » 攀岩肘指南

  10. Hi Tom Can you advise me what to do?
    When I lay down on my hands my arm hurts a lot. Should I stop or less weight hand?

  11. Thanks for the tip I think it might work and I will let you know. It is the “locust” pose with hand position reversed. So it is easy for me to switch as I do this pose most days and hope to be back playing golf soon! (Not rock climbing!)

    Best Regards
    from Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan

  12. I have been doing this stretch as you describe for two weeks now. I had decided to take a rest week and look into getting my elbow sorted as it was really bad. After 3 days performing the stretch it had completly gone, thought maybe it was the rest but have been back climing for a week now and even hard lock offs cause no pain. I had tried a load of other exercises but this stretch not just helped but actually cured it! Thanks Tom!

  13. thanks – this is very helpful! Martin’s comment on jan 9, 2013 also shared a lot of wisdom that has helped me. Injured mine with an overdose of golf, pull ups, and an odd assortment of other activities. Getting better with this advice

    thanks

  14. Started doing this today, if i see any improvement i will let u guys know!
    thanks for the tips, greetings from Chile!

  15. Had golfers for few years now, tried everything and nothing has worked so far, not feeling so optimistic about this but it’s worth a shot.hope it works..just seems very unlikely and to Good to be true 😦

  16. Got a case of medial epicondylitis from doing pull ups in the gym (I’m a gym rat, not a rock climber…). After about a week of ineffectual stretches, I wasn’t making much progress. Stumbled across this blog, tried the exercise, and voila! Thanks a lot! I’m keeping this in my stretching routine.

  17. Hi Tom! I’m soo glad I came across this article. I’m just having two issues performing this:

    1. I can’t figure out how to get on my stomach with my arms in front. Do you roll over on your arms?

    2. Also my head gets in the way causing the back of my neck to be crammed which I’m sure isn’t good. Any advice?

    • 1. Yes I do roll over my arms slightly.
      2. I haven’t experienced this, and I am not an expert on this field (just passing on a method that someone showed me that worked!) so maybe would suggest you speak to a physic or yoga teacher to see if they can help you with your neck in this position? Be careful anyway 🙂

  18. Maybe my arms aren’t in front of me enough to hold me high enough off the ground? I feel like my chest prevents me from squeezing my arms in the center. I’m skinny enough though. Thank you for any added help!

  19. Going to start today too! Fed up with the physio, NSAIDs, rest, ice, routine since August. Keep you posted…

  20. Hey Tom,
    Can you tell me the timing of your reps… you say 10 per leg, but do you lift and hold each leg for a period of time?
    Also, did you have to stop climbing during the 2 weeks it took for this to heal?
    Thanks,

    Also Tom

    • One thing to add… for anyone who has had success with incorporating the yoga pose into healing golfer’s elbow… what was the amount of exercise you were giving the affected flexor muscles during your healing period?

      • I climbed as normal, which is 4-6 days per week (some heavy sessions, some light sessions). I have tried having total rest, but this was really bad for me and made my elbows much worse…

    • I would normally do a lift on each leg and hold for 3-5 secs. So I would guess that each elbow in the total session never got much more than 1 minute of stretching in total. If it felt right to do more, I would. But likewise if it felt odd or painful then I would do nothing. I mainly try to listen as best as I can to my body on these kind of things!

  21. Improvement for me! Thanks for sharing this, I was at the end of my tether and hadn’t climbed for two months, but this really really helped.

  22. Hi Tom.
    At end of my tether too as nothing I’ve tried so far has worked. Not being able to Crossfit properly is really getting me down. So giving this a shot and praying for relief!
    I used to do Bikram Yoga and they use this stretch a lot. They do a different routine though which if I recall correctly is left leg hold hold 10 secs/right leg 10 secs/both legs together hold 10 secs/remove arms and rest/repeat first set again). So that I’m absolutely clear on your method I have two questions –
    – Do you do 10 reps on left leg (10 x 5 secs) and then 10 on the right? Or alternate 1 left 1 right?
    – Do you keep the elbows in the position for the whole 20 reps? Or remove elbows and rest?
    If it works, I’ll have your babies!
    Thanks. M

  23. Thank you, it even helped me after carrying this problem around for 5 years, spending hundreds of dollers on conservative treatment methods avoiding surgery. I found this website http://www.tennisarm.eu convincing me that stretching would be the best form of treatment. But it was only after using this method and speaking with a very experienced chiropractor, to find out what’s really the best thing to do. This doctor said, that it is not to be treated as an acute inflamation, but only as a shortened muscle with a tonus that is too high. In my case this muscle was the pronator, a deep lying forearmmuscle, developing this syndrom by practicing powerups without sufficient warmup. Stretching only this muscle is difficult as it is part of a chain of muscles! And that is why the magic stretch presentend here is so efficient! because it stretches biceps and rear shoulder muscles as well. Only than a stretching of the deep lying forarm muscles can be achieved. Here are some additional hints from the doctor:

    – it is important to emphasize the outside rotation during stretching, arms must be straight
    – the stretch can also be performed against wall
    – a similar stretch can be achieved by holding your hands in the same way but behind your back, holding a towel,thereby emphazising the outside rotation of the forearms
    – best of all: Training is ok, as long as it doesn’t hurt too much! But stretch intensively some hours afterwards, because during that time the muscle tends to tighten

  24. I really like your post. Good addition to treatment options! I’m a PT and an orthopedic clinical specialist. This is an incredibly frustrating condition simply due to the extremely long time tendon damage takes to repair (generally 3-6 months). If you get this climbing and go to PT, find one that’s also a climber. You’ll be much happier with the climber specific recommendations and knowledge.

  25. Hi Tom, I’ve had a bad case of golfers elbow for the last few weeks… A quick question regarding your suggested stretch, where should I be feeling the stretch? When I try it, I currently feel a stretch in the lateral epicondylitis side (I.e. The tennis elbow side). Is that correct? Thanks for your help!

  26. Thank you Tom and Ben, I am using this stretch plus other wrist bending stretches and definitely see improvements. You can watch a demonstration of Tom’s stretch in YouTube video “Stretches for Hand & Arm Pain Relief …” by Jen Hilman PsychoTruth.

    • Hi Tom, thank you very very much for your post. I am now GE free despite having done the stretch irregularly (GE restricted my arm movement but did not cause pain as I only play table tennis). The video clip I mentioned is by PchycheTruth from 6:40. Most of us can just forget the advanced moves that Jen does.

      • By PsycheTruth!
        Another shorter 1:44 clip on YouTube for the stretch: yoga asanas – ekapada salabhasana by SankritiSeries

  27. I’ve just started to feel the “golfers elbow” in the past 2 gym climbing sessions and decided to look online to see if it was anything serious. I’m happy I did since it seems it can be serious if not dealt with early enough. Happy I came across this thread!
    I did my first session of this stretch just not and when performing it, it felt great in all the right spots! But, I was wondering, did you have any short term (30 seconds-1 min) soreness or pain immediately following the stretch? Nothing unbearable but definitely noticeable.

    • I would say that straight afterwards it’s a minor pain – a bit like when you do a hard stretch. It’s an acceptable pain that quickly subsides within 10 secs… slowly dies away. The sensation isn’t just at the point of the Golfer’s Elbow either. It feels like it’s in the muscles surrounding it. Hope that helps?

      • Thats exactly what’s going on. Thanks again Tom! Fingers crossed to looking forward and saying goodbye to elbow pain!

  28. Hey tom, stumbled across your site while looking into climbers elbow. I’m 44 and I got back into climbing recently from over 20 yrs ago. Within 2 months of climbing every other day, the pain started. Haven’t been in the vertical world in over a month. I just did this stretch for a few reps and it gave me instant relief! I’m printing this page and bringing it to the gym for them to post. Thanks so much Tom, seriously..

  29. Thanks a million, after seeing your photographs I knew this was worth trying, and boy, what a difference, after only one stretch I have lost the burning sensation in my elbow and the pain that was moving down my forearm. I will make this a daily routine, but just to add my own twopennyworth, I find that holding both legs off the ground while you perform the reps increases the pressure, and your arms really know they’ve had a workout; I had to get up VERY carefully..

  30. Hello from Thailand. God! I have been really struggling with a bad case of GE following my first few months of training Muay Thai (Thai boxing) last summer. In my very early beginner stages I was over reaching with poor form whilst throwing a straight right. Had tried everything including all the usual R.I.C.E. stuff. Not much luck. Found one thing on the net that sort of helped for a week or so but alas, it came back. Luckily stumbled upon this and even after only two days of doing it, I already feel better with less pain and discomfort than I felt with all of the other approaches of the past ten months combined. I do it two or three times a day and did it last thing before bed last night, woke up with almost no pain this morning for the first time in a long time.

    I will do this religiously every day for few weeks and hopefully continue to make progress. GE is such a drag. I have been boxing with no right punches for six months now, at least in Muay Thai you have another six weapons you can use to compensate! Agree with the comments from the personal trainer about needing to make it stronger as well. I used to be a bigger guy as a bodybuilder years ago, now I am a very fit boxer but I’m skinny as hell and not as strong at lifting weights as I once was. This would have been much less likely to happen to me when I was still weight training and had stronger tendons I think.

    Thanks for taking the time to post, just a few paragraphs of text and a couple of pictures are obviously making a big difference to many. It seems that most GE sufferers do eventually recover but that is also dependent on some kind of physiotherapy as much as anything else. It’s been really getting me down of late and so I am truly grateful for any information like this. Good luck for all of us!

  31. I have had tennis elbow and golfer elbow for 2 years. The tennis elbow is about gone since i quit racquetball a year ago. i still play golf and workout. The golfers elbow I was just accepting the pain. I read your article and tried the stretch and after a few days my elbow felt much better. I’m excited. This makes sense as a treatment.

  32. Oh, this post was a life saver! I have been experiencing this elbow pain for several months and was doing everything I could to help it heal, but it was hurting during daily things like shampooing my hair or washing my face, wiping counter tops in my kitchen, etc, etc. I was about to make an appointment with an orthopedic doctor when I read your post and I have only done the stretch 2 days in a row and feel a huge difference!! The pain has lessened by nearly 50% in two days, I will make this stretch part of my daily routine 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing!!!

    • Yes that’s correct. Although it depends on how “boney” your hip is! In any case it’s not that part that’s digging into your tricep, so it sounds like you’ve got it right 🙂

  33. I started doing it and in the begining it was very painful but it improved with time and helped me a lot but when I developed a slight pain in the back of the elbow on the top park is it normal?

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