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Differences Between Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow

You don’t have to be Roger Federer or Tiger Woods to have it. Even if you’ve never played a set of tennis or a round of golf, you can still suffer from Tennis Elbow or Golfer’s Elbow. Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow are both overuse injuries that are caused activities that requires repetitive motion of the arm and wrist. The difference between the two conditions lies in where the elbow is inflamed. Learn the causes, symptoms and helpful tips for treating them both.

Both Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow are forms of epicondylitis, an inflammation of tendons that attach to the elbow. Tennis Elbow affects the lateral, or outside, epicondyle. Golfer’s Elbow affects the medial, or inside, epicondyle.

What Is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis Elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is most common in adults between the ages of 30-50. It’s an overuse and muscle strain injury that results in an inflammation of the outside of the elbow and forearm areas.  With repeated use, those muscles are often overworked, becoming inflamed. Plumbers, carpenters and painters are prone to Tennis Elbow due to the repetitive nature of their jobs. Seasonal activities such as raking, gardening and cutting wood can cause Tennis Elbow as well.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

Pain may radiate from the outside of the elbow to your forearm and wrist.  It can be a constant ache in the elbow area, or you may only feel it while performing activities that involve reaching, grasping or lifting.  It is important to see a doctor to ensure that you receive a correct diagnosis regarding the cause of your pain.

What Is Golfer’s Elbow?

Medial epicondylitis, or Golfer’s Elbow, is an irritation on the inner side of the arm and elbow. This condition can be caused by activities that require repeated twisting or flexing of the wrist. Generally, it’s due to overuse of the forearm muscles. Activities such as gardening, shoveling, playing golf or tennis can cause Golfer’s Elbow. Repeated lifting, especially when your elbow is extended and your palm is facing down, can also cause it. Other causes include racquet sports, baseball or softball, weightlifting, carpentry, painting and other similar activities.

Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow

Symptoms include pain on the inside of the elbow when lifting the wrist or hand, pain when twisting the forearm, or when making a fist. The area may be slightly swollen or tender to the touch. If the problem has lasted more than a few weeks, additional symptoms can include stiffness in the elbow or weakness in the hands or wrist.

Treatment for Golfer’s Elbow & Tennis Elbow

Immediate Treatment

Give your elbow and wrist a rest. It may take several weeks of resting the elbow and wrist to feel a decrease in pain, and even longer until the symptoms are gone completely. You can help reduce pain and swelling by icing the painful area. Taking anti-inflammatory pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or aspirin can also help. However, it’s important to seek medical attention from your health care provider if the condition does not show improvement.

Helpful Tips for Treating Tennis & Golfer Elbow

Here are 5 helpful tips for treating both Tennis & Golfer’s Elbow:

  1. For a sports related injury, it could be helpful to learn the proper form from an expert, such as a tennis or golf professional
  2. Consistently do exercises to gradually stretch and strengthen your muscles, especially those in the forearm
  3. Your doctor may recommend a cortisone shot
  4. Your doctor may also refer you to therapy (either physical, occupational, or hand therapy) to help you manage your condition
  5.  Surgery could be an option after a year of unsuccessful treatment

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