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Tennis Elbow & Golfer’s Elbow

What’s the difference

Tennis Elbow causes pain and discomfort around the outside of the elbow. In medical terms, this condition is called lateral epicondylitis. Whereas Golfer’s Elbow is known as medial epicondylitis and pain originates at the medial epicondyles of the humerus, inside the elbow.

If you are suffering with a elbow pain and want to talk to someone immediately, please contact Molly Haskins at the Norfolk Tissue Therapy clinic. However, if you want to know more about this injury & the prescribed treatments please read on.

Tennis Elbow overview

Tennis elbow is one of the most common overuse injuries seen at the Heacham Sports Injury Clinic. Even though it is named ‘tennis elbow’, this injury can occur with anyone that has repeatedly overused the extensor muscles at the forearm. This may be seen in individuals who play other racket sports such as badminton or squash.

Conversely, it could develop from overusing these muscles in the following job roles: office jobs, in gardeners, carpenters, painters and electricians. This is because they all use the extensor muscles for the entirety of the day, 5 days a week. The extensor muscles originate from the lateral epicondyles of the humerus. It usually involves trauma to the tendon of the extensor carpi radialis brevis near the attachment point at the humerus (funny bone).

It can also affect the extensor digitorum, extensor carpi radialis longus and extensor carpi ulnaris. If overuse persists and rest is not granted, then tendinosis can develop, which causes degeneration of the structural protein of tendons itself, collagen. With this injury type, inflammation is present to begin with and micro tears to the extensor carpi radialis brevis attachment point at the humerus occurs.

An injured Tennis player suffering with Tennis Elbow

Golfer’s Elbow Overview

Medial Epicondylitis or otherwise known as ‘Golfer’s elbow’, can occur when the flexor muscles of the forearm are overused. This causes a repetitive strain injury to the tendons at the attachment site of the flexor muscles. It can be seen again in other sports such as, tennis, baseball, when shooting in basketball or netball and many more that involve flexion of the wrist.

A healthy golfer avoiding a common injury - Golfer's elbow

If an individual is suffering from medial epicondylitis, they may experience discomfort or pain at the inside of the elbow, weakness within grip strength and potentially difficulty moving the elbow. Building up strength in the forearms will help to lower the risk of this, including better flexibility and when performing tasks adhere to proper techniques.

An important factor to consider with lateral and medial epicondylitis, is that it will only get better with rest as it is an overuse syndrome. There needs to be sufficient time for the tendons and muscles to heal, in order for them to repair. Tendons also have a poorer blood supply compared to ligaments, so the healing process will be longer, as there is not the same level of nutrients present in the area. Ice can also be applied several times a day for a few minutes at a time to the site of pain, with a tea towel between the skin and the frozen peas or ice. This may ease pain and help lower inflammation if there is still an inflammatory response present.

How long until a full recovery

Full recovery these common elbow injuries, depending on the severity of the injury, can take any time from six months up to two years. Soft tissue therapy (Norfolk tissue therapy) and physiotherapy can help to improve the range of motion at the joint and hopefully help speed up the recovery process, during this rehabilitation stage. Various soft tissue techniques could be used to loosen and realign muscle fibres, increase microcirculation to the area and regain its natural state of mobility. 

Disclaimer information

*This should not be taken as medical advice and you should still contact your GP/hospital if you suspect a serious injury. *