The tendons that control hand and wrist movement go together through a narrow opening in the inner elbow. A minor injury to the elbow during the golf swing can irritate the sheath that holds the tendons, causing pain and stiffness in the elbow and, sometimes, pain, numbness, weakness or tingling in the hand, wrist or fingers. This condition, called golfer's elbow or sometimes pitcher's elbow, can usually be treated at home. Begin treating your golfer's elbow immediately, since it can become more painful and harder to recover from if it is neglected.
Follow the RICE formula: rest, ice, compression and elevation. You should stop playing golf until the pain is gone and minimize other activities that require you to use the elbow for at least the first couple days, especially anything involving lifting or rapid or repetitive movements. Apply ice to the painful part of the elbow for 20 minutes at a time about four times a day for the first few days. Provide compression by wrapping the elbow in gauze. This will help reduce swelling and stabilize the elbow, minimizing damage. Finally, keep the elbow at or above heart level as much as possible for the first day. This will help keep the swelling down.
Treat pain and swelling in the elbow with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen. Gently massaging the elbow also may help reduce some of the pain and discomfort. If your pain is really bad you should go to the doctor. The doctor may choose to give you a steroid injection into the elbow, which will quickly bring down the swelling and relieve the pain. If you can't move your elbow, or if it hot and swollen or looks misshapen, you should go to the doctor as soon as possible as you may have a more serious condition.
As soon as the pain subsides, you should gradually start some arm strengthening exercises. You can squeeze a tennis ball or grip strengthener to condition your forearms and fingers. You can also do bicep curls and reverse curls, wrist flexors and extensions, tricep extensions and pronation exercises to strengthen your elbow. Be sure to do the exercises with both hands, or you will end up with one arm much stronger than the other. Also, be sure to ease off if you find your elbow pain flaring up again when you exercise.
Returning to Your Golf Game
Once the pain is completely gone, you can return to golf again. Before you start playing, however, you should take a few lessons on a proper swing. Golf elbow is often caused by an improper stroke or by gripping the club too tightly. A good golf teacher can correct your form to prevent you from re-injuring yourself.