What Is Tennis Elbow And Golfers Elbow?

Sports like tennis and golf are becoming more popular than ever and those overhead arm movements can lead to pain. These are known technically as epicondylitis. If you’re suffering from pain after tennis or golf, here’s what you should know about causes and treatments.

In general, activities that require frequent overhead movement of your arms place you at an increased risk for injury at your elbow joint. This is because of how the elbow joint works. Learning about elbow joint anatomy can help you better understand tennis elbow and golfers elbow.

Elbow joint anatomy

There are three bones that join to create your elbow joint. The humerus is the bone of your upper arm. The radius and the ulna are the bones within your forearm. At the end of the humerus, where it meets with the radius and the ulna, there are two round bumps: epicondyle. More specifically, there is the lateral epicondyle and the medial epicondyle. These bony protrusions serve as a point of contact for the connective tissue of the elbow joint.

The elbow is a synovial joint, meaning that there is a thin coating of articular cartilage covering the ends of the three bones that meet at your elbow. Moreover, there is a protective capsule that surrounds the joint, which is formed by the synovial membrane.

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In order to provide extra protection to the structures, as well as to maintain lubrication of the joint, this joint capsule is filled with a fluid known as synovial fluid. All around the joint capsule is an extensive network of connective tissue. These ligaments help to maintain the stability of the elbow joint, as well as protect against stress from joint use.

Golfers elbow or tennis elbow symptoms

In most cases, your symptoms of tennis elbow or golf elbow will develop over time. A portion of patients develop their symptoms suddenly following strain or injury to the elbow.

In terms of tennis elbow, symptoms of pain and discomfort most commonly occur along the outside of the elbow at the area of the lateral epicondyle. Conversely, patients suffering from golfers elbow frequently experience pain and discomfort at the inside of their elbow, within the area of the medial epicondyle.

For both conditions, it is not uncommon for symptoms of pain and discomfort to radiate out, either up or down the arm. Patients with epicondylitis will also experience:

  • Joint stiffness, particularly in the morning
  • Joint weakness
  • Numbness or tingling sensations that radiate down into the fingers

Interestingly, though epicondylitis generally emerges as the result of injury, strain, or irritation to the elbow, patients are most likely to experience pain that is exacerbated when doing things with their hands.

Individuals with tennis or golf elbow may report pain that worsens when:

  • Lifting
  • Making a fist or when gripping an object
  • Shaking hands
  • Opening a door
  • Straightening the wrist or raising their hand

Tennis Elbow And Golfers Elbow Causes

The most common cause of both lateral and medial epicondylitis is overuse. This leads to damage of the muscles within the forearm. Individuals who engage in activities that require repetitive movements using the forearm muscles or requiring overhead arm use are most at risk for developing tennis or golf elbow.

While many athletes, such as tennis players, suffer from symptoms of epicondylitis, non-athletes who are involved in other activities that place strain on the forearm muscles are also at risk for developing tennis or golf elbow. For instance, carpenters, plumbers, and painters are regarded as particularly prone to experiencing elbow pain and discomfort.

An individual’s age is also a risk factor. More specifically, adults between the ages of 30 and 50 are among the most common to be diagnosed with epicondylitis.

Tennis Elbow And Golfers Elbow Diagnosis

Prior to determining the appropriate treatment for your symptoms, your doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination. They’ll also interview you to assess the underlying cause for your pain and discomfort.

Their physical examination of your elbow will include palpation of the area, as well as physical manipulation of the joint. This helps them assess the degree of:

  • Joint stiffness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Flexibility
  • Pain

Your doctor may wish to order additional tests in order to rule out other possible causes or to confirm their diagnosis. These tests may include imaging techniques, such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Electromyography (EMG) may also be used in order to assess for the possibility of nerve compression.

Tennis Elbow And Golfers Elbow Treatments

Most cases of epicondylitis can be effectively treated without surgery. In fact, some studies have estimated that nearly 95% of patients suffering from either tennis or golf elbow are able to achieve relief using non-surgical techniques. These treatments may include the following.

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Rest can help patients who are suffering from pain or discomfort within the elbow region that is the result of strain, overuse, or injury.

Individuals are strongly encouraged to temporarily suspend their involvement in sports or work activities related to the injury, in order to avoid further damage.

Over-the-counter analgesics

It is not uncommon for physicians to recommend that patients with epicondylitis pain take an over-the-counter analgesic, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).

Physical therapy

Physical therapy may also help. A physical therapist will help you perform specific stretches and exercises that target and strengthen your arm and joint.

Elbow braces

In some cases, a protective brace may be worn that restricts movement of your joint.

This provides the muscles with rest in order to promote healing. It also protects against exacerbation of the injury.

Steroid injections

Some patients will experience symptoms of chronic, refractory pain from epicondylitis. Their pain doesn’t get better after less interventional treatments.

If you haven’t achieved relief despite other interventions, a more targeted approach may be necessary. Steroid injections can provide effective relief from pain for some patients. These involve injecting pain-relieving and inflammation-reducing medications directly into the area for maximum effectiveness.


If numerous non-surgical treatment trials haven’t worked, patients may need to consider surgery. There are several types of surgery available to treat epicondylitis.  Most include removing deteriorated muscle tissue and reattaching healthy muscle.

There are a number of risks with surgeries to treat epicondylitis, including:

  • Bleeding or infection at the incision site
  • Accidental neural or vascular tissue damage
  • Loss of flexibility within the elbow joint
  • Loss of strength in the elbow joint
  • Need for additional surgeries


Tennis elbow and golf elbow are pain conditions that emerge as the result of overuse, strain, or injury to the elbow joint.

Tennis elbow frequently leads to symptoms of pain along the outside of the elbow. Golf elbow most commonly leads to pain along the inside of the elbow, along the medial epicondyle.

Treatments for these conditions can range from minor interventions, such as rest or over-the-counter oral analgesics, to more interventional approaches, including steroid injections. Most cases of tennis and golf elbow are effectively treated using non-surgical techniques.

If you need additional help with your elbow pain, you can find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.

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