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What Is the Difference Between Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow?

Feb 5, 2022

What Is the Difference Between Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s ElbowDid you know that you don’t have to step foot on a tennis court or golf course to experience tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow? Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow refer to different types of pain and overuse injuries that can affect your arm, elbow, and wrist. While these types of injuries are obviously common with athletes, it is also possible to experience elbow pain due to repetitive arm movements for your job or around the house. No matter what has caused your tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow symptoms, your College Park chiropractors are here to help. There are many treatments, healing, and recovery options available to help with tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow, along with how to help prevent this type of pain in the future.

What Is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is a type of overuse injury that occurs due to repetitive movements that cause inflammation and pain in the elbow joint. Repetitive trauma to the area can lead to microscopic tears in the soft tissues that support your elbow. When tendons become inflamed, it is called tendonitis. Tennis elbow can lead to swelling and inflammation of the tendons that support the elbow, which means tennis elbow is a type of tendonitis. You can develop tennis elbow from a variety of activities that regularly engage your elbows and forearms, including racket sports like tennis, where it gets its name. Throwing sports like football, baseball, and softball can also lead to tennis elbow. Weight training can also put excessive strain on the elbow joints with repetitive weightlifting movements and lead to tennis elbow. Even everyday tasks with repetitive movements like typing, gardening, or hobbies like knitting can cause tennis elbow. Tennis elbow affects the outside of the elbow, which is where symptoms are most likely to occur.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

The medical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis, which refers to the bone that protrudes on the outside of your elbow called the lateral epicondyle. When muscles and tendons attached to the outside knob on your elbow become aggravated, torn, and inflamed, you will experience symptoms of tennis elbow. Common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include pain and tenderness along the outside of your elbow. You may notice the outside of your elbow is tender to the touch and extremely sore after certain activities. When you are participating in activities that engage your elbows and forearms, you may notice pain in the elbow that also causes sharp, shooting pain in your forearm, and wrist. Tennis elbow can also affect your wrists, causing wrist pain and weakened grip strength. If you find it more difficult than usual to grab or lift objects, then you may be dealing with tennis elbow. Tennis elbow can also cause tingling and numbness in your fingers.

What Is Golfer’s Elbow?

Golfer’s elbow is also a type of tendonitis and a type of overuse injury. When you engage in repetitive movements that cause inflammation and pain along the inside of your arm and elbow, you may be dealing with golfer’s elbow. Similar activities can lead to golfer’s elbow when you are engaging the muscles and tendons that support the inside of your elbows. Golfer’s elbow gets its name from golfing because of the golf strokes that engage your inner elbows. Certain throwing sports can also aggravate this area and lead to golfer’s elbow. Movements that frequently engage the elbows, wrists, and hands are more likely to cause golfer’s elbow. Repeatedly bending and flexing your wrist and grasping or twisting with your elbow are causes of golfer’s elbow.

Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow

The medical term for golfer’s elbow is medial epicondylitis, which refers to the bony part of your elbow on the inside of your arm. When the tendons and muscles that support the medial epicondyle along the inside of your elbow become damaged, tearing and inflammation can occur. Golfer’s elbow can cause pain and tenderness along the inner side of your elbow and into your wrists and hands. You may notice the inside of your arm is tender to the touch, and pain gets worse with certain motions. Golfer’s elbow can cause tingling and numbness that primarily extends into your ring finger and little finger, due to which soft tissues and nerves are impacted by the swelling and inflammation. You may also experience stiffness and soreness in your elbow and feel pain when trying to curl your hand into a fist.

How to Diagnose Golfer’s Elbow vs. Tennis Elbow

If you are experiencing pain around your elbow, visit a doctor for a definitive diagnosis on whether you are experiencing golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow. Your doctor will discuss your symptoms with you along with your regular activities to help determine if you are dealing with golfer’s elbow vs. tennis elbow. Here are three things that factor into how your doctor can diagnose tennis elbow vs. golfer’s elbow.

Location of Inflammation

The location of the inflammation is key to determining whether you are dealing with golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow. The diagnosis will depend on which soft tissues become inflamed due to repetitive movements and overuse. If you are primarily experiencing swelling and inflammation around the outside of your elbow and forearm, then you are likely dealing with tennis elbow. However, if the inflammation occurs along the inside of your elbow and arm, then it is likely golfer’s elbow.

Affected Tendons and Muscles

The elbow joint is comprised of bones, cartilage, and soft tissues that all work together to help your elbow move in different ways. Which tendons are affected by the pain and inflammation will also help determine whether you have tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow. One type of tendon extends along the outside of your elbow and helps you bend your wrist backward and spread your fingers. When this tendon is negatively affected, it can lead to tennis elbow. In contrast, when the tendons and muscles that help you flex your wrist and fingers to grip or grab an object are affected, then you are dealing with golfer’s elbow.

Type of Symptoms

While some symptoms of golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow are similar, there are a few that are distinctly different and help with the diagnosis. The primary difference in the symptoms of tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow is where the symptoms occur. In addition, tennis elbow is more likely to affect your grip strength, while golfer’s elbow is more likely to cause tingling and numbness in your ring and pinky fingers.

Golfer’s Elbow vs Tennis Elbow Treatment

If you have elbow pain and suspect you are dealing with golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow, then it helps to understand the types of treatments available for you. If you are experiencing mild symptoms, you may try at-home remedies to see if the pain and discomfort go away on their own. However, if you continue to experience pain and discomfort, then you should talk to your doctor before you develop more moderate to severe symptoms. Here are treatment options and techniques for golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow.

Reduced Activity

Whether you are dealing with golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow, minimizing the motions and activities that cause you pain are key to helping you recover. The more you engage in those activities without rest, the longer the inflammation will continue to affect you. Reducing your activity and building in breaks allows for swelling and inflammation to go down in your joints, which helps lessen your symptoms. Rest your arms and reduce activities that cause your pain and other symptoms.

Pain Relief

You may try over-the-counter medications for pain relief and to reduce inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce swelling inflammation and temporarily alleviate your pain. Applying ice or cold compresses to your affected elbow will also help provide a temporary numbing effect that works as a pain reliever. Ice or cold packs can also help reduce swelling and inflammation by shrinking your blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the area.

Supportive Devices

There are many types of supportive devices designed specifically for supporting your elbows and wrists. When you are dealing with tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, you may use a brace or splint on your elbow or wrist to provide more stability to the area. Athletic tape can also provide additional support to your arm muscles that support your elbows and wrists without restricting your movements. Supportive devices like a brace, splint, or athletic tape can help protect damaged tendons from further strain or inflammation.

Chiropractic Care

How can a chiropractor improve your pain without medication? Visiting a chiropractor for tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow can help you manage your symptoms with all-natural treatment techniques. A chiropractor will assess the functioning of your affected arm, elbow, wrist, and hand. Slight misalignments in your joints can have a significant impact on how you use your arm and engage the muscles and tendons in it. A chiropractor can resolve misalignments in the joints that may be contributing to your pain and discomfort. Chiropractic care can also provide you with hands-on treatment to reduce swelling, inflammation, tingling, and numbness.

Therapeutic Massage

Therapeutic massage can help restore healthy blood flow to the affected area. Deep tissue massage will help promote the flow of nutrients to the area to support the healing process. Massaging the arm with twisting, rolling, and squeezing can help relieve tension and diminish any build-up of scar tissue. Therapeutic massage will target specific muscles impacted by whichever type of overuse injury you are dealing with, golfer’s elbow vs. tennis elbow. Other techniques similar to therapeutic massage, like ultrasound, can help stimulate sore and damaged muscles to speed up the natural recovery process.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can provide you with effective stretches & exercises to help you work through your tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow. Stretching and exercising in specific ways will help improve strength and support around your elbow joint. In addition to increasing your strength and stability, your physical therapist will also work with you to increase your flexibility and range of motion. The pain and inflammation of golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow can make certain movements uncomfortable. Your physical therapist will work with you through the proper technique of your regular activities so that all the soft tissues that support your elbow are better able to manage the stress and workload.

Surgery

In rare cases when more conservative treatment approaches have not brought about lasting relief, your doctor may talk to you about surgery. In severe cases, elbow surgery would help to repair the damaged tendon and also remove scar tissue or bone spurs that may have developed.

Preventing Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow with AICA

Visit your College Park chiropractor at AICA Orthopedics to learn more about your treatment options and also how to prevent tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow from bothering you again. Our team of doctors at AICA Orthopedics in College Park will work with you to help prevent elbow pain and injuries during work, sports, or your everyday routines. In order to effectively prevent tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow in the future, you want to make sure you take an adequate amount of time to rest and recover in between activities that use repetitive movements of your arms, elbows, and wrists. Learning the proper warmup techniques for regular activities or sports you enjoy will also help you avoid elbow injuries. Practicing the proper form and technique for sports will also help you prevent tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow in the future. Activities to strengthen your forearm muscles and the soft tissues that support your elbows will also help you avoid an injury like golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow.

If you think you have tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, schedule an appointment today to meet with one of our doctors at AICA Orthopedics in College Park and get started on quality and effective treatment to relieve your pain and get you back to the activities you enjoy!

 

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