What’s the Difference Between Golf and Tennis Elbow?

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What’s the Difference Between Golf and Tennis Elbow?

man holding elbow

North Carolina gives golf and tennis enthusiasts the chance toman holding elbow  play their favorite sports well into the winter season. Additionally, some people head further south over the holidays and enjoy playing golf and tennis in even warmer temperatures.

Frequent golf and tennis players (and actually anyone participating in activities that involve repetitive hand, wrist or forearm motions) can develop common tendonitis conditions called golf or tennis elbow. How do you know which injury you have? What are treatment options?

Golf elbow, or medial epicondylitis, occurs when tendons that connect the forearm to the elbow become inflamed. Pain is felt on the bony bump on the inside of the elbow and can radiate into the forearm.

Tennis elbow, known as lateral epicondylitis, is painful inflammation on the outside of the elbow. Repetitive motion can strain the muscles and put too much stress on the tendons. Pain is mostly felt on the bony part on the outside of the elbow, but can also travel into the upper or lower arm.

Diagnosing and treating tennis or golf elbow

While the specific areas affected differ, diagnosis and treatment are similar. A doctor will have the patient flex the arm, wrist and elbow to pinpoint the painful area. In some cases an X-ray or MRI may be ordered to rule out other possible causes.

Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, at-home treatments usually help heal the injury. They include:

  •   Applying ice
  •   Resting the injured area
  •   Wearing a splint or elbow strap
  •   Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and swelling
  •   Performing range of motion exercises to reduce stiffness
  •   Participating in physical therapy to strengthen and stretch muscles

In more advanced cases, steroid or painkiller injections may be used to provide temporary relief of pain and swelling. If the condition doesn’t improve within two to four months, surgery may be required. The damaged section of the tendon is removed and the remaining tendon is repaired.