Elbow Pain | Is It Tennis Elbow or Golfers’ Elbow?

Monday, April 11, 2022

Do you know someone with elbow pain, and you’re wondering: Is it golfers’ elbow (medial epicondylitis) or tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)? Differentiating between these common conditions will help ensure the best treatment and prognosis.  

What is Tennis or Golfers’ Elbow Symptoms?

People with both tennis or golfers’ elbow may report:  

  • Local tenderness 
  • Pain radiating down to the wrist or forearm 
  • Reduced grip strength (often pain limited) 
  • Painful gripping 
  • Elbow stiffness 
  • Can be caused by a traumatic incident 
  • Commonly caused by a repetitive action of the wrist & hand, often gradually over time 

What does Tennis or Golfers’ Elbow Feel like?

For golfers elbow this repetitive action will be in supination or flexion; with the tenderness on the inner elbow (medial epicondyle). While for tennis elbow this repetitive action will be in pronation &/or extension; with the tenderness on the outer elbow (lateral epicondyle) and pain with fine motor tasks like cutlery, keys, buttons. 

What’s the difference between Tennis elbow and Golfer’s elbow?

The main difference is that Tennis elbow is usually caused by repeated use and pain is often felt on the outer elbow while utilising fine motor tasks (such as typing on a keyboard, using pens or cutlery). Golfer’s elbow on the other hand is usually experienced in the inner elbow, often caused by repetitive supination or flexion.

How to tell if I have Tennis or Golfers’ elbow?

There are two streams of testing to determine if you have Tennis or Golfer’s elbow.

The tests for medial epicondylitis (golfers’ elbow) are:  

  • Resisted wrist & elbow flexion 
  • Passive stretch of wrist flexors (elbow extended, wrist in extension & supination) 
  • Pain on palpation of medial epicondyle & flexor muscle belly 

The tests for lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) are:  

  • Resisted wrist & elbow extension 
  • Resisted middle finger extension (elbow extended, wrist in extension & supination) 

Can Physiotherapy help tennis elbow?

Yes, seeing a Physiotherapist, such as the staff at Physio Inq Engadine and Physio Inq Sutherland, can assist with the relief of symptoms and long term treatment of Tennis and/or Golfer’s elbow.

At Physio Inq Engadine and Physio Inq Sutherland our staff are trained in differential diagnosis for elbow pain, which in additional to golfers’ elbow or tennis elbow may be the result of joint pathologies (passive range of motion deficits). Tt is important to rule out neural compression pathologies at the elbow joint (cubital fossa or radial nerve).  

What is the treatment for Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow?

Gold standard treatment for golfers’ elbow and tennis elbow is Physiotherapy management. Both conditions are treated with specific, individual, progressive exercise prescription, education regarding aggravating factors, manual therapy techniques & occasionally the use of supportive braces. 

Prognosis has been shown to be positively influenced with physiotherapy interventions. Corticosteroid injections are not recommended in the treatment of epicondylitis due to the deleterious effect on tendon tissue healing. 

Elbow pain is a common issue treated by Physiotherapists. At Physio Inq, our Physiotherapists will be able to do a thorough testing and diagnosis, as well as provide gold standard treatment to help you live a life with less limits. Contact us today to book your consultation. 

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