Golf season is in full swing here in the Chicago area.  Every weekend, and most weekdays, you can find the links full of avid golfers out there for both business and pleasure.  But, with this increase in golf course usage comes an onslaught of potential issues, most notably golfer’s elbow. Golfer’s elbow has plagued both pros and joes alike, but what exactly is it, and is the elbow the only issue at hand?

Golfer’s elbow is technically known as medial epicondylitis.  In other words, it is describing inflammation of the tissues that attach to the medial epicondyle of the humerus.  Golfer’s elbow is typically experienced in the elbow of the dominant arm, which is the back arm during a golf swing.

At the medial epicondyle, there are a number of muscles that will help to pronate the forearm, or spin the palm down.  This is the exact motion that is often performed during the forward part of a golf swing. As the club comes forward, the back forearm has to pronate in order to get the face of the club pointing in the intended direction.

When golf season starts up and you head out to play a round, you are likely getting hundreds of swings in during that time.  Between hitting balls on the driving range, practice swings, and actual shots, it would not be surprising for you to have to pronate your forearm 200-300 times over the course of 18 holes.  One of the biggest issues with this is your forearm is likely not accustomed to having to perform that volume of pronation. As a result, the muscles that perform pronation start to get overworked, possibly causing pain on the inside part of the elbow.

But, there’s another consideration, as well, and this is what is happening throughout the rest of your body.  When you swing a golf club, you are requiring motion throughout your entire body, from your feet all the way up to your wrists.  One of the most basic principles of movement is that if one area of your body doesn’t move well, other areas of your body will try to move more to make up for it.  This is what can be a huge contributing factor to golfer’s elbow.

Related: Do you have “golfer’s foot”?

If your feet, hips, trunk, or shoulders do not have the ability to move well, you may try to pick up more motion at your forearm.  Specifically, if your trunk or hips cannot rotate enough, you will not be able to get the face of the golf club around far enough to hit the ball straight.  In order to compensate, you may start to pronate more. In the short term, the ball goes straight and you play well. But, after enough swings like that, you may start to feel the inside of your elbow getting inflamed.

This is important to understand because if you feel this starting to happen and only seek help to improve the elbow directly, you may be missing the bigger issue of why you have golfer’s elbow in the first place.  It would be wise to seek out a specialist who can assess your body from head to toe to see what mechanical limitations might be present that are contributing to the golfer’s elbow.

Muscle Activation Techniques® (MAT®) is a systematic process of assessing and addressing issues within the muscular system that are contributing to poor joint motion, joint instability, or overall weakness.  As an MAT® practitioner myself, most of the clients that come in experiencing golfer’s elbow have tremendous movement limitations in their trunk, hips, and shoulders. Often times, by getting the muscles in these areas working better, their body as a whole starts to move better, which can help to take stress off of their elbow.  As the motion requirements of their elbow decrease, the tissues controlling the elbow can heal better and, not surprisingly, they can start to hit the golf ball better, too.

If you are experiencing golfer’s elbow, it may be worthwhile to check out an MAT® practitioner in your area.  You can find a certified one here. While the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your elbow may need time to heal, an MAT® practitioner will be able to assess you to see if there are issues going on elsewhere that are putting undue stress on the elbow and delaying the healing process.

Charlie Cates

Charlie Cates is the leading consultant to high-level professional, college, & high school basketball players in the Chicagoland area for injury prevention, recovery, & muscle performance. As a certified Muscle Activation Techniques® MATRx practitioner & former college basketball player, he uses his personal experience & understanding of the game & player demands to create customized exercise options for his clients to recover faster & perform their best. He is certified in the highest levels of MAT®, including MATRx, MATRx Stim, and MAT® Athlete. Follow him on Instagram @CharlieCates!