What is Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow?

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By Dr. Stefanie Yao
Published on September 16, 2013

Common Elbow Injuries

Elbow pain does not only affect tennis players or golfers; it can affect anyone from baseball players, bowlers, gardeners, landscapers, house and office cleaners, carpenters, mechanics, and assembly line workers – basically anyone who frequently uses the muscles of the hands and arms. Despite their name, tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are not necessarily caused by playing tennis or golf. Rather, both elbow injuries develop from repetitive hand, wrist, or forearm motions which lead to micro tears and irritation of the muscles and tendons of the elbow joint. The result is tendonitis of the elbow or elbow inflammation. Tennis elbow tends to affect one’s dominant hand but can also affect both arms.

Tennis elbow & golfer's elbow are common conditions which can effect anyone.

The main differentiating factor between golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow is where the pain is located. Golfer’s elbow affects the inside of the elbow or the medial epicondyle. Tennis elbow affects the outside of the elbow or the lateral epicondyle. Another differentiating factor is muscle groups that these two elbow conditions affect. While golfer’s elbow affects the wrist flexors of the forearm, which pull the hand forward into flexion, tennis elbow affects the forearm extensors which pull the hand back into extension.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow

No matter what type of elbow injury you have incurred, elbow pain can be persistent, disturbing, and difficult to manage. Additional symptoms associated with tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are tenderness, swelling, redness, and warmth. In both conditions, symptoms tend to develop gradually, with pain starting out as mild and slowly worsening over time. Similarly, while pain begins directly at the elbow, it can then spread down the forearm and into the fingers.

Elbow pain may be further aggravated by wrist, hand, or forearm motions which require extension or flexion or by movements which require twisting, squeezing, or gripping. People suffering from elbow injuries may also experience significantly weaker grip strength.

Treatment For Tennis Elbow & Golfer’s Elbow

The best way to diagnose tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow is through a physical examination and muscle testing carried out by a qualified health practitioner. A blood test or X-ray is typically not needed however may be used to rule out other causes of elbow pain, such as radiohumeral bursitis, osteoarthritis of the elbow, nerve entrapment, ligament sprain, and bone or avulsion fracture.

Finally, elbow injuries are commonly treated by chiropractors or massage therapists, who will advise you regarding shoulder mobility and thoracic mobility exercises you can perform on your own. A regular mobility routine and learning to listen to your body so as to avoid overload and overuse will go a long way in preventing elbow injuries and elbow pain and keep you and your body in tip-top shape for many years to come.


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