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Plans to golf, garden or get outside

By Angie Austin, LPTA

The weather is getting warmer and more people are headed outside, which means it’s that time of a year for an increase in patients with elbow injuries. Many people have heard of and will use terms like ‘tennis elbow’ and ‘golfer’s elbow.’ But what exactly are these conditions and what’s the difference?

The truth is, not much. Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are both overuse injuries that are caused by any activity that requires repetitive motion of the arm and wrist. The difference between the two conditions lies in where the elbow is inflamed. Both of these conditions are forms of epicondylitis, which is a medical term for inflammation of a tendon that attaches to the bone (epicondyle) of the elbow joint. Tennis elbow will impact the lateral or outside of the elbow and golfer’s elbow will impact the medial or inside of the elbow.

Common symptoms of tennis elbow/lateral epicondylitis include:

  • Pain that radiates from the outside of your elbow and down your forearm and wrist
  • Tenderness on the outside of your elbow (may be constant or present with activity)
  • Weakness in your forearm or a weak grip
  • Pain when reaching, lifting or when you grip things, twist something or if you play tennis, especially with backhand strokes
  • Pain when you extend your wrist

Repetitive motions using forehand/backhand motions are also common in cooks, painters, carpenters, plumbers or computer/mouse work. You can also get this condition from everyday chores such as raking, gardening or chopping wood.

Common symptoms associated with golfer’s elbow/ medial epicondylitis include:

  • Pain and tenderness on the inside of your elbow
  • Pain that radiates down your arm from the inside of your elbow
  • Weakness in your hand or wrist
  • Numbness or tingling in your ring or little fingers
  • Pain when you grip or twist things as is common in a golf swing
  • Pain when you flex your wrist

Examples of movements that can be difficult due to these symptoms also include shoveling, gardening and repeated lifting. Throwing, weight lifting and other sports-related movements can lead to these conditions also be more difficult due to these conditions.

How can physical therapy help with these overuse injuries?

Tennis and golfer’s elbow are not generally considered serious and in many cases, these can be managed with rest and ice. If left untreated however, symptoms cam worsen causing more severe pain and weakening of the muscles in the wrist and forearms. This weakness can cause poor productivity and performance at work and with sports due to discomfort. Physical therapy can aid in reducing pain and preventing further problems through targeted stretching and strengthening exercises. If you are dealing with either of these conditions or general pain and discomfort that is impacting your ability to perform activities, CALL OUR OFFICE TODAY at 703-450-4300.

CLICK HERE for more information on how physical therapy can help common overuse injuries. 

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