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Understanding Tennis Elbow vs Golfer’s Elbow: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


In the realm of sports medicine and orthopaedics, “tennis elbow” and “golfer’s elbow” are common terms that are frequently discussed. Despite the athletic names attached to these conditions, it’s a misconception that they only afflict sportspersons. In reality, these conditions can affect anyone. Let’s delve into what sets these two conditions apart, their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

1. What are Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow?

  • Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis): This is a painful condition where the tendons that join the forearm muscles to the outer part of the elbow become inflamed. The pain mainly centres around the lateral epicondyle, which is the bony bump on the outer elbow.
  • Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis): This condition involves inflammation of the tendons that connect the forearm to the inside of the elbow. The pain is localised around the medial epicondyle, the bony bump on the inner side of the elbow.

2. Causes

Both conditions are typically caused by repetitive stress on the tendons. Overuse and strain can result in small tears in the tendons, leading to inflammation and pain.

  • Tennis Elbow: Often linked with repetitive use of the forearm extensor muscles, such as during backhand strokes in tennis or using a screwdriver.
  • Golfer’s Elbow: Commonly associated with activities that require repetitive flexing of the wrist or clenching of the fingers – like gripping a golf club, throwing a baseball, or even gardening.

3. Symptoms

  • Tennis Elbow:
    • Pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow
    • Stiffness and aching, especially when extending the arm
    • Weakened grip strength
  • Golfer’s Elbow:
    • Pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow
    • Stiffness and aching, more pronounced when flexing the wrist
    • Numbness or tingling sensations that may radiate into the fingers

4. Diagnosis

A physician usually makes a diagnosis based on a physical examination and the patient’s medical history. They may also recommend imaging tests, like X-rays or MRIs, to rule out other conditions.

5. Treatment

Treatment for both conditions primarily aims at pain relief and reducing inflammation. Some common approaches include:

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Avoid activities that aggravate the symptoms.
  • Physical Therapy: Strengthening and stretching exercises can help rehabilitate the area.
  • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Bracing: Wearing a brace or strap can provide relief by restricting movement.
  • Steroid Injections: For severe pain, a physician might recommend corticosteroid injections.
  • Surgery: In rare cases where conservative treatments fail, surgery might be considered.

6. Prevention

Engaging in warm-up exercises, using proper technique, and taking regular breaks can help reduce the risk of developing either condition. It’s also vital to use equipment that suits one’s body and skill level.


While tennis and golfer’s elbow are both overuse injuries of the tendons in the forearm, they manifest on different sides of the elbow. With appropriate care, therapy, and sometimes modifications to activities, most individuals can overcome these conditions. If you suspect you have either tennis or golfer’s elbow, it’s crucial to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

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This article was written by our team of specialist therapists at Perfect Balance Clinic. If you would like more specific advice about how our team can help you with this condition or symptoms you may be having, please complete the contact form below and one of the team will get back to you shortly.

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