Are Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow the Same?
Do you ever get that tickling sensation when someone rubs your elbow? This sensation that makes you want to laugh is the polar opposite of the feeling you get when suffering from an inflamed elbow.
The pain can be so harsh it prevents you from performing the simplest of tasks with the affected arm. One thing that may aggravate the situation is the confusion involved in characterizing this pain – is it Golfer’s Elbow or Tennis Elbow? It’s hard to begin tackling this ailment if you don’t even know where your problem originates.
Don’t take their names too seriously; you don’t need to play golf or handle a tennis racket to suffer from these two conditions, although they are both possible causes.
In this article, we aim to explore what is meant by Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis elbow, as well as their similarities and differences. But before you can fully understand these conditions, you have to have a foundation by knowing what a tendon actually is.
What is a Tendon?
A tendon’s primary function is to hold a muscle to a joint and has a similar structure and feel to an elastic band. The tendons and muscles in your elbow work together; when you contract your muscle, it pulls the tendon which pulls the joint in a chain reaction to move your whole arm, and when you relax your muscle, the same thing happens but in reverse.
Walking, holding your bag, opening a cookie jar, almost every activity you do requires your tendon as an intermediary between your muscles and a joint. If the tendon is repeatedly overworked and strained, it becomes shorter and breaks down, causing pain and warmth around the area.
This condition is known as “Tendonitis,” which is more common in obese people, the elderly, and smokers. Here we have our connection to Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow – both are different cases of Tendonitis, but with an important distinction. Keep reading to find out more.
What is Golfer’s Elbow?
Golfer’s Elbow affects the inner, or medial, part of the elbow and is sometimes referred to as “medial epicondylitis.” A good way to remember this is to think of the game of golf; the whole point of the game is to get the ball IN the hole.
Symptoms of Golfer’s Elbow include:
- Tenderness in the inner elbow
- A weak feeling in the arm
- Swelling in the elbow
- Inability to flex the arm
- Elbow stiffness
Some activities that lead to Golfer’s Elbow include (but are not limited to):
- Frequent strenuous movement of the arm
- Lifting weights
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis Elbow is essentially the same but exact opposite of Golfer’s Elbow – it affects the outer, or lateral, part of the elbow, and is referred to as “lateral epicondylitis.” Again, we can reference the condition’s namesake – when playing tennis, you want to hit the ball OUT of your side of the court.
Common symptoms for Tennis Elbow include:
- Pain in the outside of the elbow
- Reduction of grip strength
- Weakness or tingling in the arm or wrist
- inability to extend the hand
Some activities that lead to tennis elbow include (but are not limited to):
- Regular tending of a garden
- Rock climbing
- Weight lifting
- Tennis or racquetball
What Differentiates these Two Types of Tendonitis?
So far, you have seen that these two conditions have a lot in common, which can make it hard to tell them apart. They share various similarities such as they are both types of epicondylitis, but one is medial, and the other is lateral. Their main differences include the region of pain, and the tendons and muscles involved.
The most notable differences between Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow are:
Location of Pain:
If you have Golfer’s Elbow, you will feel pain on the inner part of your elbow. For Tennis Elbow, you will feel pain on the outer part of your elbow.
Function of Muscles Involved:
Golfer’s elbow affects the tendons and muscles that may cause difficulty flexing your arm during activities involving rotation of the arm, flexing the wrist, and flexing your hand to grip an object or make a fist. Tennis Elbow affects the outer elbow and the ability to extend, or lengthen, the arm from the elbow.
Prevention is always preferable to treating symptoms or finding a cure. Ways you can avoid either of these forms of tendonitis include:
- Stretching before any form of exercise
- Having your workout guided by a professional trainer
- Knowing your limit while participating in any physical activity
- Stopping as soon as you notice any form of pain
- Exercising your arms and hands with activities like typing for long hours or frequent cooking
- Using the right equipment for your training level
- Focusing on building arm strength and flexibility
- Consuming foods that prevent inflammation (e.g. Omega3 supplement, vegetables, ginger, etc.)
- If you suspect that you are at risk for these ailments, you may want to start taking nutritional supplements (e.g. Vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, etc.)
What to Do if You Expect You Have Golfers or Tennis Elbow?
The first thing you should do is give the affected arm time to rest and put a cold compress to the area to relieve any pain and swelling. Typically, the problem will resolve itself if you stop the activity that caused it but try not to start up any rigorous activities or actions before you are completely healed.
Get medical attention if the problem continues for two or more days. The level of injury will decide the treatment method and may even require surgery in severe cases, while other treatments can include corticosteroid, NSAID, massage, compression therapy, etc.
You should see a doctor if:
- You’re unable to bend your elbow
- Your elbows appear deformed
Tendonitis is no joke and can limit so many vital activities. So the next time elbow pain confronts you, you are well equipped to understand what is happening and what steps you should take.