Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow, How to Know the Difference

Golfer's elbow vs tennis elbow

Are you having forearm pain and you are not sure where it is coming from? There are two common conditions that we see a lot in our practice, and they are Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow. Most of us have heard these terms before, but knowing the difference can change the ways you treat your condition to get better!

First, let’s start with some definitions:

What is golfers elbow? (medial epicondylitis)

What causes it? I am sure many of you have heard this term before, but the cause is very simple. It is an inflammation of the wrist flexors (muscles inside of your forearm) that is caused by overuse or repetitive flexion movements. Example, golfing, throwing, or repetitive wrist flexion.

What are some symptoms I can look for? If you have pain on the inside (medial) part of your elbow, and pain or tenderness along the muscles located on the inside of your forearm, it is most likely Golfer’s elbow. If you have any pain while shaking hands, gripping, or opening a can or jar, this could also be an indication of Golfer’s elbow.

What is tennis elbow? (lateral epicondylitis)

What causes it? Like Golfer’s elbow, it is caused by inflammation of the wrist extensors (muscles on the outside of forearm) that is caused by overuse or repetitive wrist extension movements. Example, playing tennis, using a screwdriver or even chopping food, anything that causes repetitive wrist extension movements.

What are some symptoms I can look for? If you have pain on the outside (lateral) part of your elbow, and pain or tenderness along the muscles located on the outside of your forearm, it is most likely Tennis Elbow.

How long does it take to recover from tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow?

Let’s start with the million dollar question: how long does it take to get better? As with most things in life, the answer is – it depends. Keep in mind that these are forms of tendonitis, a condition which can have a range of recovery times. Here’s some rules of thumb:iIf you’re just starting to experience symptoms now, rest and ice should clear the problem up within 1-3 weeks. At that point, we would recommend starting a program of exercise to build strength in the undertrained muscles. This will prevent reinjury.

Generally, people with these conditions can return to their chosen sports and activities after a while.

Treating golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow

How can I treat it? The best way to treat this is by resting the affected side and treating it with ice and stretching during the acute phase. As it starts to feel better, we can then incorporate some strengthening exercises and other modalities to help decrease the pain and inflammation. An elbow brace may be helpful in the initial stages as it helps by compressing and supporting tendons close to the point of attachment, so it helps to offload the tendons affected.

We hope this helps! We will shortly create a post with some exercises to do to recover from these conditions. If the problem persists from the recovery techniques described above, or if it gets worse, please give us a call. We can assess you in person or via Telehealth!

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