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Where That Elbow Pain is Coming From

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Many people have heard of and will use terms like ‘tennis elbow’ and ‘golfer’s elbow.’ 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: 

The difference 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

Common symptoms associated with golfer’s elbow:

  • 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

Any repetitive movements in the arm and wrist throughout the day can lead to these conditions. Examples of movements that can be difficult due to these symptoms include; shoveling, gardening, cooking, raking, and repeated lifting. 

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, symptoms can 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.

By Angie Austin, LPTA

 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 to schedule your evaluation and start living pain free!

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

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