All Posts tagged Medial Epicondylitis

Tennis Elbow vs. Golfers Elbow

Tennis Elbow vs. Golfers Elbow

Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are both forms of tendinitis, which is inflammation of the tendons. Despite their names, these conditions can occur in individuals who don’t play tennis or golf.

Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis):

Location of Pain: Pain occurs on the outer part of the elbow.

Affected Tendon: The condition involves the extensor tendons on the lateral (outer) side of the elbow, specifically the common extensor tendon.

Common Causes: Repetitive gripping, wrist extension, and excessive use of the forearm muscles, often associated with activities like playing tennis, hence the name.

Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis):

Location of Pain: Pain occurs on the inner part of the elbow.

Affected Tendon: Golfer’s elbow involves the flexor tendons on the medial (inner) side of the elbow, specifically the common flexor tendon.

Common Causes: Repetitive gripping, wrist flexion, and excessive use of the forearm muscles. Despite its name, it can be caused by various activities and is not limited to golf.

Key Differences:

Location of Pain: The primary difference is the location of pain. Tennis elbow causes pain on the outer side of the elbow, while golfer’s elbow causes pain on the inner side.

Affected Tendons: The tendons affected are different. Tennis elbow involves the extensor tendons, while golfer’s elbow involves the flexor tendons.

Activities: Tennis elbow is often associated with activities that involve repetitive use of the wrist and forearm, such as gripping a tennis racket. Golfer’s elbow, despite its name, can be caused by a variety of activities involving gripping and wrist flexion, not limited to golf.

Treatment: Treatment for both conditions may include rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and in some cases, braces or splints. Severe cases may require more advanced interventions like corticosteroid injections or, in rare cases, surgery.

It’s essential to note that these terms are somewhat misnomers, as the conditions can affect anyone, not just tennis players or golfers. The key is understanding the specific tendons involved and addressing the underlying repetitive strain or overuse causing the inflammation.

How can we help? 

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the management and rehabilitation of both tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) and golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis). The primary goals of physical therapy are to reduce pain, promote healing, and strengthen the affected muscles and tendons. Here are some common physical therapy options for tennis and golfer’s elbow:

Rest and Activity Modification:

Physical therapists may advise rest from the activities that aggravate the condition. Modification of techniques or equipment in sports or daily activities may also be recommended to reduce strain on the affected tendons.

Ice and Heat Therapy:

Cold packs (ice) can help reduce inflammation and numb the area, especially after activities. Heat may be used to improve blood circulation and promote healing during the later stages of rehabilitation.

Stretching Exercises:

Gentle stretching exercises for the forearm muscles can help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension. Stretching should be done gradually and without causing pain.

Strengthening Exercises:

Eccentric exercises (lengthening of the muscle while it contracts) are often prescribed to strengthen the affected tendons. Resistance exercises with bands or weights may be included to improve overall forearm strength.

Shockwave, Ultrasound and Electrical Stimulation:

Modalities such as shockwave, ultrasound or electrical stimulation may be used to promote healing and reduce pain. These techniques can increase blood flow to the affected area and stimulate the healing process.

Manual Therapy:

Manual therapy techniques, including massage and manipulation, may be employed by physical therapists to improve tissue mobility, reduce muscle tension, and alleviate pain.

Bracing and Taping:

Orthotic devices or braces may be recommended to provide support and alleviate stress on the affected tendons. Taping techniques can also be used to offload the injured tissues.

Functional Training:

Functional exercises that mimic specific activities or sports movements are incorporated to ensure a smooth transition back to regular activities. This helps the individual regain strength and coordination in a more task-specific manner.

Education and Ergonomics:

Education on proper body mechanics, ergonomics, and techniques to prevent re-injury is an essential component of physical therapy. This may involve guidance on proper equipment use, workplace setup, and body mechanics during daily activities.

Home Exercise Program:

Physical therapists often design a customized home exercise program for individuals to continue their rehabilitation independently. Consistency in performing these exercises is crucial for long-term success.

It’s important for individuals to work closely with their physical therapist to tailor the treatment plan to their specific needs and to gradually progress through the rehabilitation process. Additionally, following the therapist’s recommendations for activity modification and lifestyle adjustments can contribute significantly to a successful recovery from tennis or golfer’s elbow.