What’s the Difference Between Golfer’s Elbow & Tennis Elbow?

If you play tennis or golf, you know how important your arm strength is to consistency in competing, much less to having a winning season. But using any part of your body repeatedly can result in injury. You may have heard of tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, and now you might be experiencing one of them. 

Both conditions are forms of tendinitis in your elbow. Your tendons — thick cords of tissue that attach your bones to your muscles — have become inflamed. The damaged tendons are on the outside of your elbow if you’re a tennis player, and they’re on the inside if you’re a golfer.  

Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Michael Hood at Delta Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine has treated hundreds of patients with golfer’s and tennis elbow. They’re common sports injuries, and Dr. Hood is trained in sports medicine. When the injury isn’t severe, he can get you back in the game quickly. That’s why it’s important to make an appointment when you start to feel a twinge, rather than full-blown pain. 

Why did I get golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow? 

Tendinitis is usually caused by one of two things. First, if you’ve been out of the game for a while and start up again, you’re more at risk of injury if you didn’t start conditioning exercises in the weeks prior to playing. 

You can also get tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow if you’re a weekend warrior and don’t play during the week. Poor conditioning and lack of proper warmup can cause this painful condition. 

On the other hand, tendinitis often results from the wear and tear of overuse. Celebrity golfers and tennis players are not immune to tendinitis, simply because they play competitively year after year, causing minor but cumulative damage from the repeated motion of hitting the golf or tennis ball. 

What are the symptoms of golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow?

In cases of golfer’s elbow, you feel pain on the inside of your elbow near the bone; it may shoot down the inside of your forearm. It may also hurt to bend your arm toward your body. What starts as a twinge can progress to severe pain if untreated. 

With tennis elbow, the pain is on the outside of the elbow, but it can move into the arm. You’re likely to feel pain if you start to do anything with your hands, such as opening a door or brushing your teeth. 

What are the best treatments for golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow? 

Early treatment is key. Dr. Hood reviews your medical history and conducts a thorough exam. He asks you to move your elbow, arm, and wrist in different ways to diagnose the injury. 

For golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow, the first instruction is to rest the arm. That means taking a break from playing your sport, of course. The quicker you stop using the injured tendon, the quicker it will heal. 

Use an ice pack several times a day for 15 to 20 minutes at a time to lessen inflammation and pain. You can use over-the-counter oral and topical pain medication. 

If your pain has become severe, Dr. Hood may recommend a steroid injection to calm the inflammation, along with a short-term prescription pain reliever. He may prescribe a soft brace to help protect the injured arm while it heals. 

Once the inflammation subsides, Dr. Hood prescribes specific gentle exercises that you can do several times a day at home. Depending on the injury, Dr. Hood may prescribe physical therapy to help you move your recovery along. The exercises for tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are easy to do, and unlike the steroid shot or the pain relievers, they can help to prevent future injuries.

Call one of the Delta Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine locations in West Memphis, Arkansas, or Collierville, Tennessee, today for all of your orthopedic and sports medicine needs. You can also use the convenient online booking feature, or send a message to Dr. Hood and the team here on the website.

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