What’s the Difference Between Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow

Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow are both painful inflammatory conditions that cause weakness in your arms, wrists, and hands. While similar, the conditions affect different parts of your elbow and cause slightly different symptoms. 

Our team of talented orthopedic surgeons here at Arizona Center for Hand to Shoulder Surgery in Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona, are experts in repetitive strain injuries to your upper limbs, including golfer’s and tennis elbow. Let’s explore the similarities and differences.

Elbow anatomy

You need to know a little bit about elbow anatomy to understand the differences between golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow. Your elbow joins your ulna and radius in your forearm with your humerus (upper arm bone). A network of ligaments, tendons, and muscles support and stabilize your elbow as well as facilitate movement. The tendons that connect the muscles in your forearm to the bones in your elbow are the connective tissues that cause tennis and golfer’s elbow.

Golfer’s elbow

Golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, is inflammation in the tendons and muscles that connect your forearm to the inside of your elbow. 

Golfer’s elbow causes pain on the inside of your elbow that can radiate through your forearm to your wrist. It also causes stiffness and can make it difficult to move your elbow. The inflammation can also cause numbness and tingling sensations in your fingers. 

Tennis elbow

Tennis elbow — clinically referred to as lateral epicondylitis — is inflammation in the tendons and extensor muscles in your forearm. Tennis elbow causes inflammation in the tendons on the outside of your elbow.

Tennis elbow causes pain on the outer side of your elbow that radiates down to your forearm and wrist. It weakens your grip, and you might have trouble lifting objects, using tools, or opening jars.

Tennis and golfer’s elbow causes

Both tennis and golfer’s elbow are often due to repetitive motions, like swinging a golf club or tennis racket. Tennis elbow can also be triggered by twisting movements like turning a key or using a screwdriver. Actions like playing baseball, rowing, or typing can contribute to golfer’s elbow.

What to do if you have elbow pain

If you have elbow pain, you can try at-home remedies like ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. However, if your pain doesn’t go away, you should make an appointment with our team here at Arizona Center for Hand to Shoulder Surgery. 

After diagnosing the specific condition causing your elbow pain, they offer customized treatments to reduce inflammation and pain in your elbow and restore your full range of motion. For example, we might recommend bracing or supportive wraps, physical therapy, or corticosteroids. 

In severe cases, when your condition doesn’t respond to nonsurgical treatments, our expert surgeons offer precise operations to remove damaged tissue and relieve pressure on your nerves. 

If you have elbow pain that’s interfering with your ability to move or use your arm, call us or make an appointment online. Our doctors provide expert diagnosis to identify conditions like tennis and golfer’s elbow as well as customized treatment plans to reduce your pain and restore your mobility.

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