Golfer's Elbow

 Nurudeen Tijani (T.J.) Founder of TitaniumPhysique | Pain Relief Fitness Coach

Written by: Nurudeen Tijani

Updated: March 28, 2024

The primary cause for weightlifters who experience golfer's elbow (inner elbow pain) is restricted wrist flexor muscles. To prevent elbow discomfort, maintain pliable forearm muscles through self-myofascial release exercises. The article below answers common questions about golfer's elbow and weight lifting.

An illustration of golfer's elbow, forearm muscles, wrist flexor muscles with trigger points
YouTube video

Golfer's Elbow and Weight Lifting (FAQ)

1.  Why do I suddenly feel pain inside my elbow without apparent cause?

The muscle conditions that lead to inner elbow pain develop gradually and cumulatively over time. The forearm and tricep muscles can become restricted through repetitive use, causing them to shorten and lose elasticity. This process of muscle restriction can take months or even years to develop.

When these muscles have become restricted for months, gripping objects tightly, engaging in a routine workout, and weight lifting can suddenly trigger pain at the inside part of the elbow.

Unfortunately, most individuals are often unaware of the restricted state of their forearm and triceps until they experience this sudden onset of elbow pain during these activities.

2.  What is golfer's elbow?

Golfer's elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis or inner elbow pain, is an overuse injury causing pain at the inside part of the elbow joint due to inflammation of the medial elbow tendon. It results from repetitive movements, leading to strain and discomfort. Overuse injuries can develop gradually over time (chronic) or occur suddenly (acute) from overloading the tendon.

For weightlifters, this condition worsens with "pull exercises," such as chin-ups, chest flys, bicep curls, triceps pushdowns, lat pulldowns, and rows. Additional factors contributing to golfer's elbow include the following:

  1. Insufficient warm-up
  2. Inadequate stretching
  3. Poor weightlifting form
  4. Excessive resistance
  5. Muscle restriction
  6. Overtraining
  7. Inadequate recovery
  8. Lack of myofascial release
illustration of golfer's elbow pain and forearm flexor muscles and medial elbow tendon

3.  Can you get golfer's elbow from lifting weights?

Yes, you can get golfer's elbow from weight training. However, it is essential to understand that while lifting weights can trigger acute pain or worsen a chronic condition, it is not the root cause of this condition.

The root causes of golfer's elbow include chronic inflammation, magnesium deficiency, and muscle restriction.

For a detailed article on the root causes of elbow pain, the types of elbow tendonitis, elbow bursitis, chronic versus acute pain, and the fastest way to fix these conditions, check out our comprehensive guides on elbow injuries or weightlifter's elbow pain.

4.  What causes inner elbow pain during weight training?

What Causes it: The tendon at the inside part of the elbow (medial tendon) can become overstressed and inflamed from weight training, causing pain at the inside part of the elbow during or after the workout.

Why It Happens: The forearm muscles contract when you perform exercises involving the arm. Over time, the forearm flexor and triceps muscles become tighter and shorter. Shortened forearm muscles pull and put tension on the medial elbow tendon, decreasing the tendon's elasticity. A combination of shortened forearm flexors and an inelastic medial elbow tendon overloads the elbow joint, causing inner elbow pain during weight lifting.

YouTube video

Nurudeen performs a barbell bench press during a chest workout at the gym (2021). Click to watch the video. The bench press is a highly effective exercise to build upper body strength, especially targeting the chest. It engages the pectoral, deltoid, and triceps muscles.

"Push" movements, like the bench press, can trigger or worsen golfer's elbow, tennis elbow (pain at the outer part of the elbow), and triceps tendonitis (pain at the back of the elbow).

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Nurudeen Tijani, founder of TitaniumPhysique

5.  What are the signs and symptoms of golfer's elbow?

Here are five signs and symptoms of golfer's elbow:

  1. A burning feeling of pain at the inner part of the elbow after lifting (e.g., chin-ups, push-ups, chest flys, bench presses)
  2. Tenderness, swelling, and soreness at the inside part of the elbow after a workout
  3. Sharp, sudden, severe, or dull pain at the inside part of the elbow
  4. Difficulty bending and straightening arm after working out
  5. Weak grip strength when lifting dumbbells or barbells

6.  How does golfer's elbow affect weightlifters?

Weight-training athletes with golfer's elbow experience elbow pain during "push" or "pull" exercises that stress the medial elbow tendon. These exercises include the following:

  • Barbell Bench Press (flat, incline, decline)
  • Barbell Close-Grip Bench Press
  • Chin-Ups
  • Chest Flys (machine and dumbbell)
  • Bicep Curls
  • Push Press or Military Press
  • Triceps Pushdowns, Triceps Extensions, or Bar Dips
  • Close Grip Lat Pulldown
  • Cable Rows

7.  What exercises should I avoid with a golfer's elbow?

Avoid "pull" exercises. "Pull" exercises require an underhand grip and can overload the forearm flexor muscles, inflame the medial elbow tendon (inner elbow tendon), and worsen golfer's elbow (inner elbow pain).

Here's a list of 10 exercises to avoid if you have golfer's elbow:

  1. Chin-Ups
  2. Chest Flys (machine, dumbbell, cable)
  3. Bicep Curls
  4. Triceps Pushdowns
  5. Triceps Extensions
  6. Bar Dips/Chair Dips
  7. Close Grip Lat Pulldown
  8. Cable Rows
  9. Skull crushers
  10. Close-grip bench press
Nurudeen performing close grip chin-ups in gym (2022)

Nurudeen performs close-grip chin-ups during a back workout at the gym (2022). Close grip chin-ups are a variation of the chin-ups exercise and target the lower lat muscle, deltoids, and biceps. This exercise can trigger or worsen pain at the inside part of the elbow.

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Nurudeen Tijani, founder of TitaniumPhysique

8.  Is it OK to work out with a golfer's elbow?

It depends on the severity of the golfer's elbow. If the pain is mild, use short-term conventional solutions such as sports or kinesiology tape, elbow sleeves, braces, or straps to reduce inner elbow pain during exercise. However, suppose the condition is chronic and severe or causes sharp or shooting sensations while working out. In that case, it's best to treat the root cause of the pain before resuming exercise.

9.  Does golfer's elbow go away?

Yes, the acute symptoms of golfer's elbow can go away with rest. However, the underlying factors contributing to the condition, such as restricted forearm and triceps, do not resolve unassisted. In fact, for many weightlifters, it usually worsens over time.

Here's why: the root causes of golfer's elbow include chronic inflammation, magnesium deficiency, and muscle restriction.

Firstly, once a muscle becomes restricted and dysfunctional, it tends to remain in that state or worsen unless specifically addressed.

Secondly, muscle dysfunction is often associated with magnesium deficiency. "The Magnesium Miracle," a scientific reference on the health effects of magnesium, highlights that around 40% of magnesium in the body is in the muscles. A significant portion of the population is magnesium deficient.

Heavy exercise, physical activity, and various factors like caffeine, stimulants, diuretics, stress, and dehydration can deplete magnesium levels in athletes. These factors are one reason why restricted muscles persist and worsen.

Thirdly, chronically restricted muscles eventually become dysfunctional and stop working correctly. This condition leads to repeated injury and stress on the elbow tendons, resulting in chronic tendonitis. The tendon experiences micro-tear damage (tendonitis) when the injury occurs.

As weight training continues, the tendon condition deteriorates and degenerates, known as tendinosis. Ultimately, this progression can lead to the rupture of the tendon.

Therefore, it is crucial for athletes recovering from tendonitis to replenish magnesium actively and maintain pliable forearms through self-myofascial release (SMR) exercises.

10.  How long does it take for golfer's elbow to heal?

Solutions like the TitaniumPhysique Program can help treat and heal golfer's elbow within 5-10 days.

By combining post-workout treatments such as RICE therapy (to relieve burning pain), magnesium supplementation (to reduce inflammation), and self-myofascial release (to alleviate sharp, shooting, and dull aches), you can fix this condition and prevent relapse.

To accomplish this, perform self-myofascial release (SMR) on the triceps and forearm flexor muscles at least 2-3 times daily.

While resting the elbow (taking a break from exercise) may provide temporary relief, it will not address the underlying causes of the pain - restricted triceps and forearm muscles that place excessive strain on the elbow tendons.

Alternative short-term pain relief solutions like elbow sleeves, braces, wraps, and straps may provide immediate but temporary relief. Elbow sleeves compress the elbow joint to promote increased blood flow to the elbow. It also keeps the elbow joint and tendon warm, temporarily reducing pain from weight training. Unfortunately, the pain usually returns and often gets worse after resuming training without the sleeves.

nurudeen performing seated shoulder press with barbell at gym 2019

Nurudeen performs a seated barbell shoulder press during a shoulder workout at the gym (2019). The seated shoulder press is a variation of the shoulder press exercise. The shoulder press is an effective exercise to build upper body and shoulder strength.

This exercise primarily targets the deltoids, upper pectoral, and triceps. "Push" exercises such as seated shoulder press can trigger or worsen golfer's elbow and triceps tendonitis (pain at the back of the elbow).

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Nurudeen Tijani, founder of TitaniumPhysique

11.  What happens if golfer's elbow goes untreated?

Here's what happens when elbow injuries go untreated:

  1. Tendon deterioration: If left untreated, golfer's elbow can progress and lead to degeneration of the medial elbow tendon. The tendon loses strength and deteriorates, which leads to tendon tear or rupture (elbow tendinosis).
  2. Forearm and wrist issues: When left untreated, the forearm flexors become restricted and inelastic, leading to forearm muscle pain and wrist pain.
  3. Elbow arthritis: Untreated elbow injuries can contribute to developing autoimmune conditions such as elbow arthritis.
  4. Shoulder problems: When restricted muscles in the triceps (a contributing factor to inner elbow pain) are left untreated, they become dysfunctional and can cause pain in the shoulder.

Therefore, seeking appropriate treatment or incorporating regular self-myofascial release (SMR) exercises is vital to prevent further complications and maintain optimal elbow, forearm, wrist, and shoulder function.

12.  Can golfer's elbow cause permanent elbow damage?

Yes, golfer's elbow can cause permanent damage to the elbow. This condition is known as elbow tendinosis. Tendinosis is the deterioration of tendon collagen due to chronic repetitive stress injury - often from weight training. Tendinosis results in the loss of strength in the tendon, leading to tendon tear or rupture. It's necessary to treat the root cause of the pain to prevent permanent elbow pain.

13.  Do elbow sleeves help with inner elbow pain?

Yes, elbow compression sleeves, such as elbow wraps, straps, and support braces, help alleviate inner elbow pain from lifting.

However, it's essential to consider the pros and cons of using compression sleeves to manage elbow discomfort.

Pros: Elbow compression sleeves provide compression, which improves blood flow, enhances joint position awareness (proprioception), and offers support to the muscles and tendons surrounding the elbow joint. The compression promotes better circulation, stabilizes the joint, reduces swelling, alleviates pain, and can help prevent further damage during intense workouts.

Cons: There are drawbacks to relying solely on elbow compression sleeves, especially for individuals with concurrent chronic elbow injuries such as tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, triceps tendonitis, or elbow bursitis. Relying only on sleeves for pain relief can mask the underlying problem, allowing athletes to continue lifting without addressing the root cause of their pain.

This masking will further perpetuate the injury and potentially lead to long-term degenerative conditions in the elbow.

YouTube video

Nurudeen performs skull crushers during a shoulder and arms workout at the gym (2021). Skull crushers are a variation of the Overhead Triceps Extension. Skull crushers are an effective exercise to build upper body and arm strength. This exercise primarily targets the triceps muscle. "Pull" exercises such as skull crushers can trigger or worsen golfer's elbow (inner elbow pain) and triceps tendonitis (posterior elbow pain).

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Nurudeen Tijani, founder of TitaniumPhysique

14.  What options do I have to stop inner elbow pain?

To stop inner elbow pain when lifting, you have two options: utilizing short-term pain relief methods for temporary relief or addressing the underlying causes of the pain to avoid its recurrence.

Option #1: Short-term relief remedies. These include:

  1. Using joint supplements and vitamins
  2. Taking anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs)
  3. Undergoing physical therapy
  4. Incorporating stretching exercises
  5. Applying ice and resting the affected area
  6. Wearing elbow braces or straps
  7. Using kinesiology tape
  8. Applying topical anti-inflammatory solutions such as oils and creams

Option #2: Fix the root cause. To prevent elbow issues from interfering with your workouts, fix the root causes. These include chronic inflammation, magnesium deficiency, and muscle restriction.

My TitaniumPhysique Program can help you accomplish this.

15.  How can I avoid or prevent golfer's elbow?

Part of avoiding chronic elbow pain is preventing acute pain. If you feel inner elbow pain when lifting, reduce the resistance. If the pain persists, stop the exercise and focus on training another body part that doesn't involve your arm and elbow.

Pushing through the pain will only exacerbate acute inflammation after your workout, worsen the pain symptoms, and prolong elbow recovery.

To avoid or prevent golfer's elbow, follow these steps:

  1. Stretch Before Exercising: Before exercising, stretch your forearms and triceps. See examples of forearm stretches on RedBoxFitness, or watch me demonstrate the overhead triceps stretch.
  2. Warm Up Properly: Warm up your elbow tendons with resistance band pull-apart or other suitable exercises.
  3. Gradually Increase Weight: If you plan on lifting heavier than usual (e.g., power training), gradually increase the weight to avoid sudden strain on the forearm flexors, medial elbow tendon, and triceps muscle/tendon.
  4. Focus on Form and Technique: Learn and consistently utilize proper form and technique. Check out the Exercise Database & Library from the American Council on Exercise for guidance.
  5. Gradually Increase Training Volume: Be mindful of the number of sets you perform, and incrementally increase your training volume.
  6. Supplement with Magnesium: Supplement with magnesium to counteract inflammation and decalcify the elbow tendons and joints. Magnesium also relaxes muscles to reduce pain.
  7. Incorporate Self-Myofascial Release: Incorporate self-myofascial release for elbow pain into your recovery routine. Perform SMR on the forearm flexors and triceps muscle/tendon at least twice a week to keep the forearms and triceps pliable and healthy.

If you want an easy-to-follow video guide, click the following link to access my TitaniumPhysique Program.

More Gains. Less Joint Pain. Guaranteed!

A complete self-treatment program for joint aches, muscle pain, and tendonitis injuries. Created by athletes, for athletes.

TitaniumPhysique Program

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This program can help treat and fix:

Elbow tendonitis
Elbow pain and injuries
Golfer's elbow (inner pain)
Tennis elbow (outer pain)
Triceps tendonitis (back of elbow)
Prevent elbow injuries

Written by: Nurudeen Tijani

Nurudeen (aka TJ) is passionate about helping people build the body they desire through weight training. He is a physique and fitness trainer, nutritionist, yoga instructor, vegan natural bodybuilder, National Physique Committee (NPC) competitor, and founder at TitaniumPhysique. Nurudeen is a member of the International Association Study of Pain (IASP) and the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA).

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