Tennis Elbow vs. Golfer's Elbow: How Physical Therapy Can Help
There are so many different sports that give us a reason to use and move our bodies, but that doesn't mean they don’t come with a risk of injury! There are even some injuries directly named after the sport that the injury is most likely to stem from. Two such injuries are known as golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow.
Golfer's elbow and tennis elbow share some similarities. They are both overuse injuries to the forearm's tendons. They usually target the tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the individual's elbow, causing elbow injury and pain. Although these two conditions hurt and may require a physical therapist's support, most patients fully recover.
Understanding Tennis Elbow & Golfer's Elbow
The key distinction between these two conditions is the elbow area they affect.
Tennis elbow usually causes pain in the external area of the elbow and forearm. It's because of the strain on the forearm's tendons, which stretch and stabilize the wrist when you’re swinging your tennis racket. Golfer's elbow typically causes pain in the interior area of the elbow and forearm, due to overuse of the forearm's tendons. These tendons bend your wrist or contract your fingers whenever you grab something, like your gold club.
Both of these conditions seem to predominantly affect people between 30-50 years. Repetitive movements that overuse specific muscles and tendons are the root cause of both elbow conditions. The term 'overuse' refers to the high-level activity of at least 30 minutes, performed three times a week. However, the movements that trigger each disorder differ.
Impact motions, e.g., hitting a ball with a baseball bat (or badminton racket or tennis racket) and throwing activities like discus throwing (or javelin), can lead to tennis elbow. Repetitive turning or lifting of the wrist can also cause this condition, making plumbers, hairdressers, builders, and painters more susceptible. People spending hours typing may also be prone to tennis elbow.
The primary cause for the golfer's elbow is repeated lifting movements, specifically where the elbow is straight while the palm is facing down. Common causes include throwing a ball, digging, gardening, and assembly line work. You're more at risk of developing this elbow injury if you lift weights with poor technique.
Luckily, tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow (and most elbow injuries, actually!) are highly treatable, especially through physical therapy. Our physical therapists at BC + PT have lent us their best tips for at-home stretches- BUT it’s important to note that you should seek advice from a professional, as we can’t guarantee that just through this blog post you’ll be able to complete the stretches correctly.
Common treatment recommendations include:
- Rest the arm
- Apply ice to alleviate the inflammation
- Use of anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (BUT consult your doctor first!)
- Stretching and exercises
Of course, it is always best to seek advice from a qualified health provider, such as the doctors at BC + PT! While these suggestions might help you, they are not intended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The best way to make sure that your injury or condition is being taken care of properly is to consult with a physical therapist or other medical professional.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
If you're suffering from an elbow injury, consulting a physical therapist is a great decision. Physical therapy can help you effectively and safely recover from the golfer's elbow or tennis elbow. Your BC + PT physical therapist will guide you through all the necessary exercises and stretches to help strengthen soft tissues, tendons, and muscles in your wrists and arms. Physical therapy can also help improve your skill in a particular sport or performance in job-related tasks.