Caring & Treating Since 2005
‘Ouch! My Elbow!’
What is Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow?
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition which affects the tendons that attach to the outside of the elbow.
Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is a similar condition affecting the inside of the elbow instead. Tennis elbow is much more common than golfer’s elbow. Despite their names, these injuries can occur in people who overuse their wrists and arms through repeated motions and do not affect just tennis players and golfers only.
Anatomy & Cause
What Causes Tennis Elbow & Golfer’s Elbow
The elbow joint is made up of three bones: the upper arm bone (humerus) and two forearm bones (radius and ulna). There are two bony prominences at either side of the base of the humerus known as lateral (outer) and medial (inner) epicondyles. The tendons from the forearm muscles attach at these epicondyles.
Repeated contraction of the forearm muscles and forceful use of the wrist and hands puts excess stress on these tendons and can lead to a series of micro-tears, resulting in inflammation and intense pain.
Signs and Symptoms
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow & Golfer’s Elbow?
- The main symptom is pain felt over the outer elbow in Tennis elbow and can spread downwards to the forearm and wrist.
- In Golfer’s elbow, symptoms are more or less the same but occur on the inner elbow instead. The pain tends to develop slowly over time and is typically increased with forearm activity such as gripping an object or shaking hands.
- Stiffness in the elbow
- Weakness in the hands and/or wrists
What are the Risk Factor of Tennis Elbow & Golfer’s Elbow?
The risk factors for Tennis Elbow & Golfer’s Elbow include:
- People whose occupations or hobbies involve repetitive and vigorous motions of the wrists and arms leading to overuse of the forearm muscles. Examples include racquet sport athletes, rock climbers, plumbers and carpenters. In fact, even repetitive computer mouse use can lead to tennis elbow!
- Direct trauma to the outer or inner elbow respectively
- Tends to occur between the ages of 30 to 50
How do I Know if I have Tennis Elbow or Golfer's Elbow?
Tennis elbow or Golfer’s elbow can be diagnosed by your doctor after a detailed history and physical examination of the affected elbow.
Usually, no investigations or X-rays are required.
What are the Treatment available for Tennis elbow & Golfer's elbow?
The treatment for Tennis elbow or Golfer’s elbow depends on the severity and include:
- Avoidance of the causative activity for several weeks
- Painkillers such as paracetamol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Wearing a forearm strap or brace to reduce stress on the tendons and muscles
- Gentle exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the forearm
- Corticosteroid (H&L) injection. This is injected into and around the area of concern and reduces the inflammation. The effect is usually temporary and may last around 3 months. More than one injection may be necessary.
- Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) - See ESWT for Men's Health
- If all else fails, surgery can be considered. Surgery mostly aims to remove damaged tissue and there are several types of procedures that are available, either as open or arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery.