tennis elbow golfer's elbow

All You Need To Know About Tennis Elbow & Golfer’s elbow

Even if you don’t play golf or tennis regularly, golfer’s or tennis elbow may be the culprit for your arm soreness. Due to the two disorders being brought about by continuous elbow stress, you usually don’t need a fall to obtain either injury because something as simple as typing can bring it on.

So in today’s article, we here at Plato Weight Management will discuss:

  • The difference between tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow
  • Tennis elbow causes and symptoms
  • Tennis elbow diagnosis, treatment & prevention
  • Golfer’s elbow causes and symptoms
  • Golfer’s elbow diagnosis, treatment & prevention

The difference between tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow

tennis elbow golfer's elbow

So, how can you tell if tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow causes your elbow discomfort?

Well, since both are forms of elbow tendinopathy, it is certainly understandable why you might find it difficult to distinguish between golfer’s and tennis elbow.

When comparing the two, the most significant factor to consider is the pain’s whereabouts.

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, occurs at the outer elbow, while golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, occurs at the inner elbow.

Tennis elbow is caused by injury to the outer tendon, which is connected to the muscles that stretch your wrist backwards and allow your fingers to spread.

Golfer’s elbow, on the other hand, affects the inner tendon that connects to the muscles required for flexing the wrist and contracting fingers, such as when grasping something.

Tennis elbow causes and symptoms 

Tennis elbow is frequently caused by micro-tears in the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle.

A tendon is the portion of a muscle that connects to the bone, while forearm tendons connect the forearm muscles to the elbow’s outer bone.

Repetitive stress weakens this muscle, creating tears where it connects to the outer elbow, resulting in inflammation and discomfort.

Any action that involves repeated wrist-twisting might set off the disorder.

Aside from the apparent tennis, these actions may include swimming, golfing, turning a key, and often using a screwdriver, saw, or keyboard.

tennis elbow golfer's elbow

Some of the associated conditions are:

  • a weak grip
  • minor elbow discomfort initially that progressively worsens
  • pain spreading from the outer elbow to the forearm and wrist
  • greater pain while shaking someone’s hand or squeezing something
  • pain when weightlifting, using tools, or opening doors

Now that we’ve spoken about the causes and symptoms of the disorder, how can we know for sure that we have it and the best approach to fix it?

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Tennis elbow diagnosis, treatment & prevention

Tennis elbow is often identified during a physiotherapy examination.

Your clinician will inquire about your employment, sports participation, and the onset of the problem and do several tests to make a diagnosis.

To check for discomfort, your physiotherapist may press at the point the tendon connects to the bone.

When the elbow is straight and the wrist is flexed (bent in the way of the palm), extending the wrist causes discomfort along the outer elbow.

Additionally, your physiotherapist may refer you for an X-ray or an MRI scan to exclude alternative causes of elbow discomfort, including elbow osteoarthritis and nerve impingement.

However, these tests are typically not required to make a diagnosis.

A common way for a physiotherapist to diagnose the condition is using the test below:

So once a diagnosis is made of tennis elbow, what may treatment look like? 

Fortunately, the disorder can most often be effectively managed without the need for surgery in 80- 95 % of patients. Your physiotherapist will initially prescribe one of the following therapies including:

  • Taking a time out from activity as in order to calm the inflammatory response in the tendon caused by the repetitive movements, you need to give it a chance to rest.
  • Stretching, stretching, mobilisation and deep friction massage.
  • Ultrasound as it can transmit high-frequency sound waves into the tissues and subsequently help the healing process.
  • Shockwave therapy as it also delivers sound waves into the tendon to improve the inflammatory process.

Further, a doctor may prescribe you:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and aspirin to decrease the level of discomfort and swelling.
  • Corticosteroid injections as they also help clear up the inflammation.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy which uses injections of a patient’s own platelets to accelerate the healing process.

If the severity of symptoms doesn’t improve after a year of seeing either healthcare professional, your doctor may consider advising surgery which is either done by arthroscopy or open surgery.

tennis elbow and golfer's elbow

Here damaged parts of the tendon and muscle are removed, and the healthy parts are reconnected.

Surgery is usually very successful in treating tennis elbow, but because immobilization is needed for several weeks afterwards, you will have reduced flexibility and strength for some time.

Luckily there are a number of things you can do to avoid the need for any treatment.

By ensuring you are using the proper technique and equipment, taking a break for several days when you start to feel discomfort on the outer elbow and by keeping in the gym improving your mobility as well as strengthening, you can decrease the likelihood of experiencing tennis elbow.

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Golfer’s elbow causes and symptoms

Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, can develop both progressively and suddenly and the depth of symptoms can be mild but also severe.

You may encounter any of the resulting symptoms of the condition if you have discomfort on the inner elbow, stiffness, tightness, arm weakness and numbness in the fourth and fifth fingers.

Typically, medial epicondylitis affects the dominant arm.

It’s not unusual for elbow pain to radiate down the arm to the wrist.

This makes it difficult to complete everyday activities, such as picking up items, opening a door, or giving a handshake.

It is noteworthy that this condition is normally in the dominant arm.

People experience elbow discomfort spreading down the arm, which makes it difficult to do ordinary tasks like pulling, opening doors, and shaking hands.

Golfer’s elbow happens as a result of consistent movements in the same direction, explaining why it occurs predominately in athletes.

Golfers can get this kind of tendinopathy by continuously swinging a golf club, while tennis players can get it by continuously swinging a racket.

Excessive use of the arms in the two sports chips away at tendons causing discomfort, stiffness, and weakness.

Golfer’s elbow diagnosis, treatment & prevention

If your elbow discomfort doesn’t get better, consult a physiotherapist, who will interview you about what you feel, pain intensity, medical history, and other injuries you may have had in the last several months.

You’ll also be required to say activities you undertake daily, like your job, interests, and leisure activities.

The physiotherapist may complete an examination, including applying pressure to your elbow, wrist, and fingers to check for stiffness or discomfort.

A common way for a physiotherapist to tell if you have the disorder is using the test below:

Before ruling out potential alternative reasons for discomfort, like a broken bone or osteoarthritis, your physiotherapist may request an X-ray of the inner elbow and arm.

Accordingly, when a diagnosis is made of golfer’s elbow, what therapies will a patient likely undertake?

  • Well, firstly, rest because using the arm with the injury repeatedly might delay recovery and exacerbate your symptoms, meaning that by stoping anything requiring repeated motions, the discomfort can improve. But once the discomfort has subsided, you can restart the normal activities that you did prior to the injury.
  • Stretching, mobilization, strengthening and massage.
  • Your doctor may prescribe you ibuprofen or acetaminophen to decrease inflammation and swelling.

Most instances will improve with medication and/or home treatments, but some will not.

As a result, your doctor may, as a final option, recommend surgery.

An open medial epicondylar release is the name given to this procedure. Here a surgeon slices the tendon, removes the bad tissue around the tendon, and then reconnects the tendon.

Golfer’s elbow may happen to anybody, but there are steps you can take to decrease your risk and avoid this problem.

  • Warm-up or do some dynamic mobility drills before exercising or participating in sports to avoid injury. This involves beginning with mild walking or jogging and gradually picking up your effort.
  • Incorrect technique or form can induce tendinopathy by putting excess strain on your arms, so by learning the right skills for exercising and playing sports from a physiotherapist, you can reduce the likelihood of golfer’s elbow.
  • Stop or minimize any action that produces pain for a week or two.
  • Keep in the gym and your mobility as well as strength.

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In conclusion, tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are to be anticipated when undertaking sports that require repeated movements of the arm.

If you feel discomfort on the inner or outer elbow, it’s important to consult your doctor or physiotherapist, as it can progressively worsen over time if you don’t.

They will have a number of treatment methods that they can prescribe that can help you alleviate the intensity of the discomfort.

However, as benjamin franklin once said, a pound of cure is worth an ounce of prevention!

So try to implement the points listed when training to avoid the need for treatment altogether.

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You can find out what some of our previous clients had to say about the program on our success stories page!

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