Summertime is almost here and with that brings dreams of the PGA Championship and the US Open! With so many athletes living in the city there are many people that suffer from injuries that are related to the sports including elbow problems! The anatomical structures involved in tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are very similar and the symptoms are also similar, but they appear on opposite sides of the elbow and arm.

Let’s start with the basics and define these conditions:

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a painful condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow are overloaded, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. Despite its name, athletes aren’t the only people who develop tennis elbow. People whose jobs feature the types of motions that can lead to tennis elbow include plumbers, painters, carpenters and butchers. The pain of tennis elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow. Pain can also spread into your forearm and wrist.

Common symptoms of tennis elbow include:
Pain that radiates from the outside of your elbow and down your forearm
Tenderness on the outside of your elbow
Weakness in your forearm or a weak grip
Pain when you grip things, twist something or, if you play tennis, especially with backhand strokes

Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) causes pain and inflammation in the tendons that connect the forearm to the elbow. The pain centers on the bony bump on the inside of your elbow and may radiate into the forearm. It can usually be treated effectively with rest. Golfer’s elbow is usually caused by overusing the muscles in the forearm that allow you to grip, rotate your arm, and flex your wrist. Repetitive flexing, gripping, or swinging can cause pulls or tiny tears in the tendons. Golfer’s elbow is not as well known as its cousin, tennis elbow. Both are forms of elbow tendinitis. The difference is that tennis elbow stems from damage to tendons on the outside of the elbow, while golfer’s elbow is caused by tendons on the inside. Golfer’s elbow is also less common.

Just like tennis elbow – despite the name, this condition doesn’t just affect golfers. Any repetitive hand, wrist, or forearm motions can lead to golfer’s elbow. Risky sports include tennis, bowling, and baseball — in fact, it’s sometimes called pitcher’s elbow. People may also get it from using tools like screwdrivers and hammers, raking, or painting.

Golfer’s elbow symptoms are similar, but occur on the inside of your arm and include:
Pain and tenderness on the inside of your elbow
Pain that radiates down your arm from the inside of your elbow
Weakness in your hand or wrist
Numbness or tingling in your ring and little fingers
Pain when you grip or twist things
Pain when you flex your wrist

Rest and over-the-counter pain relievers often help relieve tennis and golf elbow. If conservative treatments don’t help or if symptoms are disabling, your doctor might suggest surgery.

Fortunately, most cases of tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow respond well to conservative treatments. Surgery is usually not necessary, although complete recovery can take weeks or even months, depending on the severity of the condition. As with other forms of tendonitis, the most important aspect of treatment is to reduce the amount of strain on the affected tendons. This may include resting the arm, using a brace or athletic taping, wrist splints, and once healed, correcting improper technique/form to prevent the recurrence of the injury.

If you suspect you have golf or tennis elbow and want help, contact Orthopedic Associates for an appointment today.

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