The elbow is one of the largest joints in the body. It is responsible for many different movements and so there are a lot of opportunities for injury to the elbow. Because many activities put stress on the elbow, it is a very active joint in the body. The most common cause of elbow pain is inflammation of the tendons, or elbow tendonitis.
Tennis Elbow vs. Golfer’s Elbow
You don’t have to be an athlete to experience tennis or golfer’s elbow. If you experience elbow joint pain, you may suffer from tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow. Tennis elbow and Golfer’s elbow are injuries to the tendons attaching the forearm muscles to the bones at the elbow. Both of these injuries usually stem from repetitive stress on the tendons. These two injuries differ in the areas of the elbow that they affect. Although the symptoms are similar in each, they appear on opposite sides of the elbow and arm.
Tennis elbow is an injury to the tendons attached to the outer side of the elbow. These tendons attach to the muscles that extend your wrist backward and straighten your fingers. Tennis elbow causes are usually characterized by overuse. Repetitive and strenuous activity and sometimes knocking the elbow can cause the injury.
Tennis elbow symptoms include:
- General outer elbow pain and tenderness
- Stiffness in the elbow
- Soreness in the forearm muscles
- Pain when holding an object
Golfer’s elbow refers to an injury of the tendons connected to the inner side of the elbow. These tendons connect to the muscles that flex your wrist and fingers when you grip something. Golfer’s elbow is usually caused by repeated stress, especially in the wrist and fingers.
Golfer’s elbow symptoms include:
- General inner elbow pain and tenderness
- Stiffness in the elbow
- Weakness in the hands and wrists
- Numbing or tingling radiating into the fingers
If you experience extreme pain, swelling and bruising of the elbow, or a visible deformity, see your doctor immediately as you may have an elbow fracture.
How to Treat Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow sometimes improves on its own, but if not, you should talk to your doctor about tennis elbow relief. There are options for elbow tendonitis treatments, and your doctor may suggest the following:
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy for tennis elbow can stretch and strengthen the muscles of the forearm. Tennis elbow stretches such as lowering your wrist slowly and raising it are particularly effective.
- Tennis elbow strap. A forearm strap or brace can reduce stress on the injury.
- Surgery. Surgery is the last option if your symptoms have not improved with any other techniques. A surgeon can remove the damaged tissue through an incision. Physical therapy is crucial to a successful recovery.
How to Treat Golfer’s Elbow
Golfer’s elbow treatment is similar to tennis elbow. If self-care techniques do not work, work with your doctor to come up with a relief pain. There are a few options for inside elbow pain relief:
- Physical therapy. Exercises that stretch and strengthen the area can provide relief. Grip strengthening, wrist flexion, and eccentric wrist extensions are effective in building strength.
- Golfer’s elbow brace. A counterforce brace can reduce tendon and muscle strain.
- Surgery. The last resort, if your symptoms do not respond to natural treatments, the injured tissue can be removed with surgery.
Most cases of elbow tendonitis can be resolved with rest, ice, and over-the-counter medications. When involved in activities that put stress on the elbow, take frequent breaks to stretch the wrist, fingers, and shoulders. You can also wear a splint to avoid putting excess strain on your tendons. Surgery is usually not necessary to treat these injuries.