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The Swing of Things: Causes and Treatment for Tennis and Golfer's Elbow

  • Dr. Steve Young
  • 3 Apr, 2023

Tennis elbow and golfer's elbow are common overuse injuries that affect the elbow joint and forearm muscles. Despite their names, these injuries can happen to anyone who performs repetitive wrist and forearm movements, not just tennis players and golfers. In this article, we will discuss the differences between tennis elbow and golfer's elbow, their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

The tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle of the humerus bone in the elbow joint are irritated or torn, which results in tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis. The “lateral” part of the elbow is the “outside” part of the elbow, not the inside. People who play tennis, use a screwdriver, or type on a keyboard often hurt themselves in this way because they grip and twist their hands over and over again. Pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow, weakness in the muscles of the forearm, and trouble gripping or lifting things are all signs of tennis elbow.

Golfer's elbow, also known as medial (on the inside of the elbow) epicondylitis, is caused by inflammation or microtears in the tendons that attach to the medial epicondyle of the humerus bone in the elbow joint. This injury is commonly seen in people who perform repetitive motions that involve flexing and rotating the wrist, such as golfers, bowlers, and weightlifters. Pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow, weakness in the forearm muscles, and trouble gripping or lifting things are all signs of golfer's elbow.

Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and corticosteroid injections are all ways to treat both tennis elbow and golfer's elbow. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the damaged tendons.

Preventing tennis elbow and golfer's elbow involves proper technique and equipment. When participating in activities that involve repetitive wrist and forearm movements, make sure to use proper form and technique to reduce the strain on your elbow joint. Using the right-sized and adjusted equipment can also help lower the risk of getting hurt. Lastly, doing exercises that strengthen the muscles in the forearms can also help keep these kinds of injuries from happening.

Self-help Exercises

Stretching exercises can be helpful in treating tennis elbow and golfer's elbow. Here are a few examples of exercises that may help:

Wrist extensor stretch: Hold your arm out in front of you with your palm facing down. Use your other hand to gently push your hand down towards the ground until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold for 15–30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Wrist flexor stretch: Hold your arm out in front of you with your palm facing up. Use your other hand to gently push your hand down towards the ground until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold for 15–30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Pronation/supination stretch: Hold your arm out in front of you with your palm facing down. Slowly rotate your wrist so that your palm is facing up, then rotate it back down towards the ground. Repeat for 10–15 repetitions, and then repeat on the other side.

Eccentric wrist curls: Hold a weight in your hand with your palm facing down. Slowly lower the weight towards the ground, using your other hand to help lift it back up to the starting position. Repeat for 10–15 repetitions, and then repeat on the other side.

It's important to note that these exercises should not cause pain.

In summary, tennis elbow and golfer's elbow are common overuse injuries that can affect anyone who performs repetitive wrist and forearm movements. While the symptoms and treatment options are similar, it is important to understand the differences between these two injuries. You can help avoid these injuries by taking the right precautions and doing exercises that strengthen the muscles in your forearms.

References:

  • Tyler, T. F., Thomas, G. C., & Nicholas, S. J. (2010). Adductor muscle strains in sport. Sports Medicine, 40(10), 883-901.
  • Shiri, R., Viikari-Juntura, E., & Varonen, H. (2007). Prevalence and determinants of lateral and medial epicondylitis: a population study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 164(11), 1065-1074.
  • Bisset, L., Paungmali, A., & Vicenzino, B. (2005). Tennis elbow. Clinical Evidence, 13, 1601-1614.

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