Any motion that repetitively stresses the elbow can potentially cause trauma, and golfing is no exception. The most common cause of right elbow pain when playing golf, especially if you are right-handed, results from "golfer's elbow," an inflammation of the tendons that attach to the bone of the elbow. It can be caused by improper form, an improper warmup or overdoing it after a long hiatus from playing golf.
The pain associated with golfer's elbow, also referred to as medial epicondylitis, is felt on the inner side of your elbow and may appear suddenly. The pain will sometimes extend along the inner side of your forearm. Other symptoms can include stiffness of the elbow, weak hands and wrists, and numbness and tingling in the arm or fingers. The pain may be more intense when making a fist or when gripping or swinging the golf club. Golfer's elbow in the right elbow is most commonly experienced in those who are right-handed, according to orthopedic surgeon Dr. William Stetson.
The most common cause of golfer's elbow is gripping or swinging the clubs with improper form. This puts unnecessary stress on the elbow, which can easily damage the tendons and ligaments of the inner elbow. Lack of a proper warmup before playing and playing lots of golf after taking a break for a year or more are other common causes. Other activities that utilize the elbow in a repetitive motion, such as weight training, racket sports, throwing sports and hammering, typing or painting, can also cause or contribute to golfer's elbow.
To prevent golfer's elbow, correct your swing and form to avoid stressing the elbow, preferably with the help of a professional golf instructor. Stretch the muscles of the arm and elbow for 15 minutes before and after playing golf, and stretch them during the day to keep them limber. Do grip-strengthening exercises such as squeezing a tennis ball for five minutes a day. Wrist curls and reverse wrist curls performed with weights will build wrist and forearm strength, which can help prevent strain on the elbow. Wearing a brace that supports the elbow while playing will ease the stress of the elbow and help prevent injury and pain. If you have not played golf in over a year, take it easy and don't play too many rounds. Stop playing at the first sign of pain.
Following the RICE protocol -- rest, ice, compression, elevation -- will help alleviate mild right elbow pain caused by golfer's elbow. Rest the right elbow, and ice it for 20 minutes at a time to reduce inflammation and control the pain. Compressing it with a bandage and elevating will help it heal. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may help relieve the pain. If the pain lingers for more than three days, consult a doctor.
Other medical conditions including arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis and fractures of the bone can also cause pain in the elbow, and playing golf can easily make the pain worse. If you are not right-handed but experience pain in the right elbow, you may not have golfer's elbow and your pain could be from one of these conditions. Consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis if you suspect this is the case. He will be able to do X-rays or an MRI to determine the exact cause of your pain. If you have severe pain or swelling or inflammation along with your pain, seek immediate medical attention.