Tennis elbow vs golfer’s elbow
Epicondylitis is a condition that involves pain in the elbow, which is typically caused by overloading the tendons emanating from the outer and inner side of the elbow. This condition often appears in one of two different variants:
- Tennis elbow, which is on the outside of the elbow.
- Golfer’s elbow, which is on the inside of the elbow.
Despite their names, tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are more likely to appear in non-athletes. The condition is frequent in occupations where work tasks revolve heavily around performing single-sided and repetitive wrist movements (e.g. carpentry). However, within a sports context, as the names suggest, practitioners that do suffer from the condition tend to be either tennis, badminton or golf players.
In most cases, tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow is brought about as a result of too much pressure (or a combination of heavy pressure and repeated movements) is put on the wrist extensors (the part of the 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 that triggered the condition. The pain will grow worse if activities that involve pressure on the wrist are continued.
The pain can be experienced as a buzzing sensation or as pain in the outer part of the elbow, in the case of tennis elbow; or as a discomfort on the inner side, in the case of golfer’s elbow. The pain will often radiate down into the lower part of the 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. This is done by limiting the load put on the wrist when you bend it upwards, especially in cases that involve resistance/weight when you move your wrist.
This can be difficult because of how 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.
You need to perform mobility, strength and stability exercises in order to increase your blood circulation and then follow up with stretching exercises. Using bandages for epicondylitis may result in significant pain relief in the short-term. 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.