Golfer's Elbow vs. Tennis Elbow: Comparing Causes and Symptoms

By Dr. Gregg Vagner on February 14, 2018

Pain in the wrist from golfer's elbowJoint pain can make simple tasks difficult. This is particularly true when issues affect the use of your elbows. Whether you suffer from tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, the pain can be limiting. Thankfully, our Austin, TX orthopedic surgery center can help address both of these issues.

Many patients are unaware of the difference between tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. In fact, many people are more aware of tennis elbow yet have a poor understanding of what it involves. Let’s compare the two elbow issues, and then go into ideal treatment options for each.

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

In the simplest of terms, tennis elbow refers to pain on the outside of the elbow, while golfer’s elbow refers to pain on the inside of the elbow. Tennis elbow is more common than golfer’s elbow.

Certain activities may be more likely to cause tennis elbow rather than golfer’s elbow, and ironically, you don’t need to play tennis or golf to suffer from either problem. Let’s explore each of these issue individually.

What Is Tennis Elbow?

Also known as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is an inflammation of the tendons (tendinitis) on the outside of the elbow. It’s the result of repetitive wrist extension that causes gradual wear and tear.

Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

The most common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • Weakness in the hand and wrist
  • Numbness in the hand an wrist
  • Pain when lifting objects
  • Pain when turning door knobs
  • Pain when gripping something
  • Pain while shaking hands
  • Pain while straightening the wrist

Activities That Often Result in Tennis Elbow

The following activities are often associated with cases of tennis elbow:

  • Tennis/squash/racquet ball
  • Baseball
  • Football
  • Lifting weights
  • Yardwork
  • Gardening

Professions and Careers Linked to Tennis Elbow

In addition to the above activities, tennis elbow often affects people in the following professions:

  • Carpentry
  • Plumbing
  • Manufacturing and assembly
  • Painting
  • Culinary arts

What Is Golfer’s Elbow?

Also known as medial epicondylitis, golfer’s elbow is tendon inflammation caused by repetitive wrist flexion. This results in pain on the inside of the elbow that can affect the forearm and wrist.

Signs and Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow

The signs and symptoms of golfer’s elbow are similar to those of tennis elbow. There will be stiffness and weakness felt in the hand, wrist, and arm. Patients experience pain when:

  • Lifting objects
  • Turning door knobs
  • Gripping something
  • Shaking hands
  • Straightening the arm and wrist

Activities That Often Result in Golfer’s Elbow

The following activities are often associated with cases of golfer’s elbow:

  • Golf
  • Fencing
  • Tennis/squash/racquet ball
  • Using computers
  • Lifting weights

Professions and Careers Linked to Golfer’s Elbow

In addition to the above activities, golfer’s elbow often affects people in the following professions:

  • Carpentry
  • Plumbing
  • Manufacturing and assembly
  • Painting
  • Culinary arts

Notice how the inner and outer tendons in the elbow can be affected by similar lines of work.

Treatments for Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow

When treating these issues with elbow pain, non-surgical options are the first treatment measure. This includes icing the elbow, using anti-inflammatory medication, stretching exercises, and physical therapy. If these are unsuccessful, cortisone injections may be used to help reduce inflammation.

Only when these less invasive procedure prove ineffective or unfeasible will surgery be considered.

Learn More About Treating Joint Pain

To learn more about treating tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and many other kinds of joint problems, be sure to contact our team of skilled orthopedic surgeons today. We are here to listen to you and help you get the treatment and pain relief you need.

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