Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow

What is tennis/golfer’s elbow?

The medical term for irritation of the tendons where they attach at the elbow is epicondylitis. Lateral epicondylitis (outer side of elbow) is more commonly known as tennis elbow. Medial epicondylitis (inner side) is commonly called golfer’s elbow. Although the exact cause of these conditions is not known, they do tend to occur after repetitive use of the muscles around the elbow.

Tennis elbow is common in tennis players and golfers can get golfer’s elbow but most cases occur in people who don’t play these sports. Any repetitive use of the forearm and wrist muscles, especially twisting activity,can lead to epicondylitis.

What are the symptoms of tennis/golfer’s elbow?

The main symptom is pain of the elbow, which can extend done the forearm to the wrist and hand. In tennis elbow, the pain is on the outside aspect of the elbow. With golfer’s elbow, the pain is on the inner aspect. The pain is made worse by bending the wrist and grasping objects tightly.

What does your doctor look for?

In addition to taking your medical history, your doctor will perform a physical examination and assess your arm for pain and function. Pain over the bony bump on the outside of the elbow suggests tennis elbow, while pain over the inner bump is found with golfer’s elbow.

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What investigations are needed?

The diagnosis of tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow is usually based on a medical history and physical examination. In some cases an ultrasound scan or MRI scan may be required to further diagnose the injury.

How are tennis and golfer’s elbow treated?

Treatment options include:

  • non-drug therapy (eg physiotherapy, joint protection, strapping/supports, ice)
  • medications (eg anti-inflammatories and sometimes joint injections containing steroid or platelet rich plasma)
  • surgery

Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your particular situation.

Tennis and golfer’s elbow surgery

Surgery is generally reserved for very severe cases that have failed to improve with non-drug therapy and medications.

The surgery is usually a day procedure. It typically involves making a small incision over the affected bony prominence and trimming away damage tendon at point where it inserts into the bone.The elbow can be moved 2 days after surgery, but it takes a week before you can go back to work. Full recovery may take up to 3 months.

It is important to prevent tennis or golfer’s elbow from reoccurring by keeping the muscles strong with physiotherapy and exercising after the surgery.

Possible complications

Not all cases of tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow can be treated effectively by surgery. A number of patients will go through all of the possible options for treatment and still have ongoing pain. There is no one clear treatment that provides universal relief from this condition, which is a source of frustration for surgeons, physiotherapists and most of all patients.

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