The difference between Tennis and Golfer's Elbow

With tennis and golf season underway, many athletes often suffer from these two common overuse injuries. You don't need to be a tennis player or golfer to get this injury. Anyone profession or trade that involves excessive use of the elbow can cause these injuries. 

What are Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow?

While many people have heard of or recognize the words Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow, most are unsure of how these conditions differ.

Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are overuse injuries in the tendons that attach your forearm muscles to your elbow. Stretching from your epicondyles, (the bony bumps at the end of your humerus) to your wrist, these tendons are often excessively strained by repeated forceful arm motions you see in gripping and lifting activities such as painting, plumbing and carpentry; and sports such as tennis, golf, rock climbing, baseball, bowling, and canoeing.

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Tennis Elbow

or lateral epicondylitis, typically involves the tendons on the lateral or outer side of your forearm, affecting the muscles that straighten your fingers and extend your wrist backwards.


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Golfer’s Elbow

or medial epicondylitis, typically involves the tendons on the medial or inner side of your forearm, affecting the muscles that curl your fingers and flex your wrist.


How Do I Know if I Have One of These Conditions?

A tendon connects muscle to bone, and can become irritated or inflamed. Both Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow are classified as different types of tendonitis, causing inflammation in the tendons in your forearm typically due to overuse, insufficient conditioning, poor mechanics, and excessive force

If left untreated and strained further, tendon inflammation can progress to partial or full tears so it’s important to address these injuries quickly at the onset of pain to prevent a prolonged recovery.

These two injuries cause pain in similar locations, but effect different tendons and muscles.


Common Symptoms of Tennis Elbow Include:

  • Pain radiating on the outside of your forearm anywhere between your elbow and wrist
  • Tenderness
  • Noticeable forearm or grip weakness
  • Pain during gripping, twisting, and wrist extending motions

Common Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow

  • Pain radiating on the inside of your forearm anywhere between your elbow and wrist
  • Tenderness
  • Noticeable hand or wrist weakness
  • Numbness and or tingling in your ring and pinky fingers
  • Pain during gripping, twisting, and wrist flexing motions

As both of these conditions are overuse injuries, symptoms tend to gradually worsen over time and should be treated before further use. Without treatment tendon inflammation can progress to partial or full tears. 

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What is the treatment? 

As with most cases of tendonitis, the best thing you can do is get sufficient rest and reduce the amount of strain on the inflamed tendon. With the proper rest and treatment, both these injuries can heal within a few weeks. 

Treatments options for both Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow:

  • Rest
  • Applying Ice on the affected area
  • Stretching
  • Bracing and/or athletic taping
  • Wrist Splints
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Correcting improper technique to prevent re-injury when healed

Visiting a physiotherapist can help diagnose and address the severity of your injury, and prescribe the proper treatment and exercises.

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