Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow are both overuse injuries that are caused by any activity that requires repetitive motion of the arm and wrist. The difference between the two conditions lies in where the elbow is inflamed.
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 and Golfer’s Elbow affects the medial, or inside, epicondyle.
Lateral epicondylitis, or Tennis Elbow, is most common in adults between the ages of 30-50. It is an overuse and muscle strain injury that results in an inflammation of the outside of the elbow and forearm areas. With repeated use of your forehand and backhand, those muscles are often overworked, becoming inflamed. Plumbers, carpenters, painters, and cooks are prone to Tennis Elbow due to the repetitive nature of their occupations. Seasonal activities such as raking, gardening and cutting wood can cause Tennis Elbow as well.
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.
Medial epicondylitis, or Golfer’s Elbow, is an irritation on the inner side of the arm and elbow. This condition can be caused by any activity that requires repeated twisting or flexing (bending downwards) of the wrist. Generally, it is an overuse of the forearm muscles during such tasks as gardening, shovelling, throwing a ball, playing golf or tennis. Repeated lifting, especially when your elbow is extended and your palm is facing down, can also cause Golfer’s Elbow. In addition to golf, other activities may cause this condition such as racquet sports, weightlifting, carpentry and other similar activities.
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 for a while, additional symptoms can include stiffness in the elbow or weakness in the hands or wrist.
When it comes to treatment for both injuries it is important to work with your physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to develop pain-free flexibility and strengthening exercises as part of your rehabilitation to ensure an optimal outcome. The treating therapist will advise which exercises are most appropriate for the client and when they should be commenced.