Elbow Pain and Two of its Most Common Culprits: Tennis Elbow and Golf Elbow

By Aaron Cain OMSII

Now that summer is in full swing and the sun is out, we are more likely to go out and be active. Whether it be going for a run, hitting the golf links, or returning to the tennis court, getting out of the house to be physically active is a great idea and has many benefits to one’s health. When we start playing sports that require certain arm motions and wrist motions we can often feel fatigue or even pain. Two of the most common forms of arm pain come from area around the elbow. These injuries are commonly referred to as tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. Both of these injuries are overuse injuries from using forearm muscles but what is the difference between the two?

Tennis Elbow:


Lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, is inflammation of the tendons in the forearm that connect to the outside part of the elbow. Recent studies have shown that the main culprit of this pain is the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle, which connects your elbow to the back side of your hand. Tennis elbow occurs because of many micro-tears to the muscles in your forearm. The reason this injury is often referred to as tennis elbow is because this muscle is the muscle that stabilizes your wrist when your elbow is fully extended, or when you’re hitting a forehand or backhand swing. Other individuals are at risk for developing tennis elbow as well, such as plumbers, painters or carpenters.


Common signs of tennis elbow are:

  • Pain or burning on the outer part of your elbow
  • Weak grip strength

These symptoms usually develop over time and slowly worsen over a few months. They can flare up when using the forearm muscles more, such as when swinging a racket, or shaking hands. This pain most often affects your dominant arm, but can affect your other arm.

Golfer’s Elbow:


Medial epicondylitis, or golfer’s elbow, is inflammation of the tendons in the forearm that connect to the inside part of the elbow. This includes muscles that run from the bony bump on the inside of your elbow to the palmar side of your hand. As you can imagine, golfer’s elbow is similar to tennis elbow but on the other side of the forearm. Pain on the inner aspect of the elbow often begins from actions that involve bending the wrist or the elbow. This is why it is often referred to as golfer’s elbow, because the swinging motion can be cause these micro-tears to the muscles. Other individuals at risk for golfer’s elbow are people that are repeatedly flexing the wrist and elbow, such as a people playing a sport that requires throwing a ball, painting, hammering, chopping wood, or working on a computer all day.


Common signs of golfer’s elbow are:

  • Pain or burning on the inside part of your elbow
  • Weak grip strength
  • Numbness or tingling, usually on the ring or little fingers

As with tennis elbow, these symptoms usually develop over time and worsen over the course of a few months. When you use the muscles more often they will hurt more than usual. It also occurs more often on your dominant arm than your other arm.

Treatment for both golfer’s and tennis elbow:

The most common way to treat these injuries are:

  • Rest
  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Brace

If conservative treatments do not work your doctor may suggest a steroid injection or in extreme cases, surgery.


The easiest way to prevent either golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow is to strengthen the muscles in the forearm. There are numerous ways to strengthen your forearm such as using light weights, and stretching before activities. Sports participants should also focus on using the correct equipment and having good form when they are using motions that affect the elbow.

Having elbow pain? Want relief?  See an elbow specialist today! Call 614-890-6555 or click the button below to schedule an appointment.

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