Tennis elbow vs golfer’s elbow
Epicondylitis is a condition involving pain in your elbow, sometimes also in your forearm and/ or wrist. It’s typically caused by overloading the tendons running from the outer and inner side of the elbow. This condition often appears in one of two variations:
- Tennis elbow, which is on the outside of the elbow, ie lateral epicondylitis
- Golfer’s elbow, which is on the inside of the elbow, ie medial epicondylitis
The monikers “tennis elbow” and “golfer’s elbow” are perhaps misnomers, as it’s not limited to athletes. This condition actually frequent occurs in occupations where work tasks revolve heavily around performing single-sided and repetitive wrist movements (e.g. carpentry). Within a sports context, as the names suggest, practitioners affected by the condition tend to be tennis, badminton or golf players.
In most cases, tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow is the result of too much pressure (or a combination of heavy pressure and repeated movements) on the wrist extensors. Wrist extensors are the part of your wrist that allows it to bend backwards.
Vibrations from using a tennis racket, a hammer or other tools are frequent culprits. Small repetitive exertions of pressure, such as using a computer mouse or typing on a keyboard for several hours, are other common causes.
It is common for the pain to appear a few days after performing the activity triggering the condition. Your pain will increase if you continue activities involving pressure on the wrist.
You may experience pain as a buzzing sensation. In the case of tennis elbow, you may feel pain in the outside of the elbow. In the case of golfer’s elbow, you may experience discomfort on the inside of the elbow instead. The pain will often radiate down into the lower part of your arm towards the wrist area.
Diagnosis and treatment
Tennis and golfer’s elbow are caused by overloading the body. The first step in treating an injury caused by overload is to relieve the damaged tissue. You can achieve this by limiting the load you put on your wrist when you bend it upwards. Especially focus on this when resistance or weight are involved as you move your wrist.
This can be difficult because of the way we normally use our wrists i.e. by bending our wrists upwards when we carry objects. Instead, try to lift/carry the object with your elbow facing outwards and the palm of your hand facing straight ahead or up. This feels unnatural, but it will help you to relieve pressure on the outer side of your elbow.
Perform mobility, strength and stability exercises to increase blood circulation and then follow with stretching exercises. Using bandages for epicondylitis may result in significant short-term pain relief. In mild cases, elbow training can be initiated immediately.
Use the Injurymap screening tool to find out if you are ready to treat your elbow pain with rehabilitative exercises.
To ensure a complete recovery, you should undergo a three-month training program. Continuous exercising will help to prevent relapses. If you experience too much pain to be able to exercise, then some injections of adrenal cortex hormone may be helpful. In the rare instance that the condition does not respond to traditional forms of treatment, you may have to resort to surgery.