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Golfer's Elbow vs. Tennis Elbow - What's the Difference?

by Patty Weasler, RN June 23, 2021 0 Comments

playing tennis and golf

Diagnosing golfer’s elbow vs tennis elbow can be tricky. These are two of the most common causes of elbow pain and, while they are different injuries, are easily confused and talked about interchangeably. Each has distinct differences and similarities, it’s important you know which condition you have so that it is treated properly. We’re here to guide you through this overuse injury to get you back onto the course or the court with less pain and more fun.

The Similarities

Tennis elbow (medial epicondylitis) and golfer’s elbow (lateral epicondylitis) share many of the same components. Here are the similarities between the two tendon injuries and why they are often confused:

  • Both injuries are caused by inflammation of the tendons, also known as tendonitis.
  • The inflammation is caused by overuse, specifically repetitive motions of your arm and wrist.
  • Pain is felt in the elbow area and worsens over time.
  • Involves the tendons that attach your forearm muscles to the elbow.
  • Tendonitis can progress to tendon tears if left untreated.
  • The basic treatment for each injury is similar--rest, ice, and compression.

What’s the Difference?

We’re here to help you determine if the cause of your elbow pain is golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow. Though these injuries have a lot in common, they are very different in several ways as well.

Location

Golfer's elbow occurs on the inside of elbow and down your arm while Tennis Elbow pain is on the outside.

 

One of the best ways to find out which injury you are suffering from is by pinpointing where the pain and inflammation are coming from. Golfer’s elbow is caused by tendonitis on the inside of the elbow. Whereas, tennis elbow is tendonitis on the outside of the elbow. This will be the main distinguishing characteristic between the two conditions.

Tendon Damaged

In tennis elbow, the damaged tendon is the lateral epicondyle which is on the outside of your elbow. This tendon is joined to the muscles that allow you to spread your fingers and extend your wrist back. With golfer’s elbow, the injured tendon is the medial epicondyle tendon. You use this tendon when you are flexing your wrist or gripping an object.

Symptoms

The last difference between golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow is the symptoms that you experience. For most people, pain is felt on the outside of the elbow in tennis elbow and those with golfer’s elbow will have pain on the inside of the elbow. We will cover more specifics about the symptoms below.

  • Tennis Elbow Symptoms

    You don’t have to love racquet sports or be a tennis player to suffer from tennis elbow symptoms. Many people with the condition feel pain and discomfort radiate down from their elbow to their wrist or hand. It worsens when they extend their arm and grab something. Check out all the tennis elbow symptoms here:

    • Decreased grip strength
    • Difficulty grasping objects
    • Pain on the outside of the elbow
    • Pain during wrist extension
    • Finger numbness and tingling
    • Swelling or redness in the affected area

    Learn More About Tennis Elbow

  • Golfer’s Elbow Symptoms

    Just like tennis elbow, you don’t have to regularly swing a golf club to have golfer’s elbow symptoms. Those who have this condition also feel pain in their arm and elbow but the location is slightly different. Here are the symptoms specific to golfer’s elbow:

    • Pain and tenderness on the inside of your elbow
    • Discomfort when flexing your wrist, like when throwing a ball
    • Numbness and pain in the little and ring fingers
    • Hand weakness
    • Elbow stiffness

    Learn More About Golfer’s Elbow

What to Do After Proper Diagnosis

After you have received a definitive diagnosis it’s time to develop a treatment plan with your doctor. In most cases, conservative treatment with rest, ice, and compression will be enough to reduce inflammation and pain. For some people, they will need anti-inflammatory medications or cortisone injections to reduce swelling.

If your golfer’s or tennis elbow is a chronic condition that just won’t go away then it’s time to start physical therapy. Your physical therapist will give you a personalized treatment plan that includes strengthening exercises, stretches, bracing or splint options, and more.

How to Treat Tennis Elbow

How to Treat Golfer’s Elbow

Finding Relief from Your Elbow Pain

Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are two of the most common causes of elbow pain. These conditions share many similar characteristics--pain, swelling, and numbness. But it’s their differences that are important for you to know and understand in order to receive the best treatment. Before you begin treatment for your elbow pain, reach out to your doctor for a firm diagnosis and to learn all of your treatment options.

Sources:

https://www.oip.com/tennis-elbow-vs-golfers-elbow-explained/

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/golfers-elbow-basics#1-2

SHOP Golfer's Elbow

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Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.



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