Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow – What’s the Difference?

tennis or golfer's elbow

You don’t have to be Roger Federer or Phil Mickelson to have it. Even if you’ve never played a set of tennis or a round of golf, you can still suffer from these elbow injuries. 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.

Check out our video “Treating Tennis & Golfer’s Elbow with the 3pp Elbow P.O.P. Splint” View Video

Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, 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.  It is important to see a doctor to ensure that you receive a correct diagnosis regarding the cause of your pain.

Golfer’s Elbow

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, shoveling, 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, baseball or softball, weightlifting, carpentry, painting 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.

Treatment for Both Conditions

Immediate Treatment

Give your elbow and wrist a rest. It may take several weeks of resting the elbow and wrist to feel a decrease in pain, and even longer until the symptoms are gone completely. You can help reduce pain and swelling by icing the painful area, and taking anti-inflammatory pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. However, it is very important to seek medical attention from your health care provider if the condition does not show improvement.

Helpful Tips:

  • For a sports related injury, it could be helpful to learn the proper form from an expert, such as a tennis or golf professional
  • Consistently do exercises to gradually stretch and strengthen your muscles, especially those in the forearm
  • Your doctor may recommend a cortisone shot
  • Your doctor may also refer you to therapy (either physical, occupational, or hand therapy) to help you manage your condition
  •  Surgery could be an option after a year of unsuccessful treatment

Your health care provider may also prescribe an elbow brace. The purpose of the brace is to redirect the pressure over your muscles so that the injured area does not take the full force. Some elbow braces, such as the 3pp® Elbow Wrap  and the NEW 3pp Elbow P.O.P. Wrap are designed with adjustable compression.  This allows you to determine where and how much pressure to apply to promote healing without restricting blood flow.

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Our blogs are educational in nature and are not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Because your condition is unique to you, it is recommended that you consult with your health care provider before attempting any medical or therapeutic treatments. We are always happy to answer questions about products mentioned in our blogs, however, we cannot provide a diagnosis or medical advice.

3 comments on “Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow – What’s the Difference?

  1. Interesting stuff, quite informative, regarding all injuries which we sometimes mix up. Kudos to you guys for this brilliant blog.

  2. Being a sports fan, this blog was an amazing read. Sports is such a genre which needs informative as well as stimulating facts and information – you got them all!

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