Case Study: Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow)

How did I get Golfer’s Elbow while participating in Crossfit?  Golfer’s Elbow is also referred to as Climber’s Elbow.  Pain develops within the tendons of the medial epicondyle or the inside of the elbow. Greg is an adult male that loves to rope climb.  After participating in a workout involving increasing repetitions of rope climbs, he developed pain on the medial aspect of his right elbow.  The pain had been there for several weeks and after many attempts to “mash it,” he was unable to relieve the pain.


Tendinosis occurs due to an accumulation of microtraumas to a tendon.  In Greg’s case, his medial epicondylitis was caused by excessive gripping while rope climbing.  This can also be caused by other gripping movements, like high repetitions of pull-ups and farmer’s carry.  Although these exercises are a lot of fun, scaling a workout is also permitted.  The body is able to adapt to these stressors, but muscles can adapt quicker than tendons due their increased vascularity.  Eventually, muscles create more force than the tendons can adapt to, causing injury and pain. Early detection of this condition may be your best defense.



Rest: That goes without saying.  But for how long is always the question.  If you must rope climb, then use a more balanced approach.  Try using your legs more.  Legless rope climbs are all the rage right now, but in my case, try lifting a bull with my tiny forearms . It’s not going to happen.  Utilize your legs, tight ball then stand tall!

Ice: If you are inflamed due to microtrauma then 2 doses of 10 minutes on/10 minutes off a day should speed up recovery.

NSAIDs: Nope…


Once the pain has been reduced to manageable levels, it’s time to rehab. This can be accomplished through the use of mild stretching and strength training exercises. Ask your trainer for some forearm stretches of the extensor and of the flexor compartments of your forearms.  Then ask them how to “mash” your elbow and adjacent regions on a bar.  I love to do this in between my racked strength sets. People think I’m only talking, but I’m multitasking.  The last group of exercises to ask your coach about are supination and pronation exercises with a light dumbbell.

Take a second to reflect.  Don’t get back on the rope too soon.  If your elbow pain was caused by the muscles adapting more quickly than the tendons, then give your tendons some time to catch up. That’s reasonable. Resume your legless rope climb attempts when you have achieved pain-free ranges of motion of the elbows. Strive for long-term goals instead of short-term gains.