Golfer’s Elbow vs Tennis Elbow

Two Sides of the Same CoinUnderstanding Tennis Elbow and Golfer's Elbow

Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow are terms that are frequently heard when referring to sport injuries, but what are they, really? 

On either side of the elbow exist muscles and tendons that attach through the joint in locations known as epicondyles; specifically the medial epicondyle, located on the  inside  of the elbow and the lateral epicondyle, located on the outside of the elbow (1).  These epicondyles connect to the muscles more colloquially known as forearm flexors and extendors and facilitate movement and use of the lower arm, down through the hand. 

At the heart of each of these conditions lies a very basic cause, stress. When excess stress is applied to these areas it causes chronic tendonitis of the wrist flexors and pronators that attach to each epicondyle (2). This can cause symptoms such as: pain and tenderness, stiffness, weakness, or even numbness or tingling. The determining factor of which epicondylitis an individual suffers from results from a collective pool of activities that they participate in. 

Golfer's Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis) 

This is where the colloquial terms, Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow come into play. Golfer’s elbow, or Medial Epicondylitis, is found primarily in individuals who participate in golfing and the inevitable subsequent movements that go along with that, including loaded gripping, forearm pronation, and wrist flexion. The movements associated with golf tend to lean heavily on the function of the medial epicondyle.

Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

Alternatively, Lateral Epicondylitis, or Tennis Elbow is found most commonly in racket sports players such as tennis players, squash players, racketball players and the like (3). The elbow is still used in a repetitive, stress inducing fashion for these sports as well, but it tends to be the other side of the elbow that receives the most wear and tear with these types of movements. Effectively, Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow are the same injury, just in different places on the elbow. So, when treating each type, be mindful of the activities that could have potentially caused the pain to begin with as this will likely be a good indicator of where to focus treatment. 

Great, Now What? 

Treatment of Epicondylitis

The good news is that both forms of Epicondylitis are fairly simple to treat with only 4-11% of cases requiring any sort of surgery (4). Nonoperative management is the paramount to treating both Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow. The first step in treatment is always going to be ceasing the pain inducing activities. Whether that means taking a break from weekend golf tournaments or putting a brief stop to lifting heavy objects, you’re going to want to give the elbow a chance to rest. 

Sometimes, just resting the elbow is enough to reduce the inflammation or swelling of the epicondyle but in some cases additional intervention is required. This can look like pain medication, physiotherapy, rehab, modifying activities, or bracing. However, there have also been some studies looking into the effectiveness of more targeted treatments such as intra-articular injections and extracorporeal shockwave treatment. In fact, a study done in 2019 showed that while the shockwave treatment did not elicit any significant difference in elbow function compared to other treatments, it did show a considerable decrease in pain and an increase in raised grip strength (5). 

ARPwave NeuroTherapy Treatment

Other companies such as ARPwave have seen encouraging success with a combination of therapy and electrical stimulation. For the better part of 20 years ARPwave has been working with athletes and professionals all over the United States and beyond to not only manage the pain associated with conditions like Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow, but also to encourage the rate of healing and recovery long term. 

If you suffer from Golfer’s Elbow or Tennis Elbow, give us a call and schedule an appointment with one of our therapists to discuss potential options that could get you back out, playing the games you love, pain-free soon! 

Article References

1 Mayo Clinic -'s%20elbow%20occurs%20primarily%20where%20the%20tendons,the%20elbow%20(lateral%20epicondyle). 

2 Medial Epicondylitis - 

3 Kinesio taping reduces elbow pain during resisted wrist extension in patients with chronic lateral epicondylitis: a randomized, double-blinded, cross-over study - 

4 Current Trends for Treating Lateral Epicondylitis - 

5 A comparative study of the efficacy of ultrasonics and extracorporeal shock wave in the treatment of tennis elbow: a meta analysis of randomized controlled trials. - 

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