Elbow pain can be agonizing making simple movements of your arm almost impossible What is the difference between Tennis Elbow vs Golfer’s Elbow? Can someone have both of them at the same time? How do you treat them? What is the best treatment? Let’s dig in.
The elbow joint is a hinged joint that also has the unique ability to rotate. It is composed of three principal bones: the arm bone (humerus) and the two bones that make up the forearm, the radius, and ulna. There are two important boney surfaces on the humerus that are called epicondyles. The medial epicondyle is on the inside of the elbow joint whereas the lateral epicondyle is on the outside. The epicondyle is where tendons and ligaments attach. Tendons are thick bands of connective tissue that connect muscle to bone whereas ligaments connect bone to bone. The lateral epicondyle is where the extensor and supinator tendons and collateral ligaments attach. The medial epicondyle is where the flexor and pronator tendons attach. Tendons are susceptible to injury including inflammation, tears, and ruptures.
What Is the Difference Between Tennis Elbow vs Golfer’s Elbow?
Both conditions involve inflammation, microinjury and degeneration of the tendons at their attachment on the epicondyle which is also called epicondylitis (1). The difference is in the location. Tennis Elbow, also know as lateral epicondylitis, is inflammation and injury and pain on the outside of the elbow whereas Golfer’s Elbow which also known as medial epicondylitis, affects the inside of the elbow. If it helps Tennis, Lateral and outside all have T‘s and is an easy way to remember that Tennis elbow involves the LaTeral or OuTside of the elbow. Pain is the primary symptom.
Lateral epicondylitis occurs in approximately 1-3% of the population annually and is most common in 30-50-year-olds (2). Symptoms typically occur due to overuse or strain from repetitive gripping or wrist extension. Risk factors for lateral epicondylitis are increased age, increased BMI, rotator cuff disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, oral steroid use, and smoking (3).
This condition is less common that lateral epicondylitis with a prevalence of less than 1% (4). Patients at risk include overhead throwers and workers lifting heavy objects (5). Other important causes of pain on the inside of the elbow include ulnar nerve disorders, neck nerve irritation, and laxity or tearing of the collateral ligament (6). Pain is typically gradual in onset and may be accompanied by grip strength weakness.
Can Someone Have Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow at the Same Time?
While medial epicondylitis, AKA Golfers Elbow, is less common than Tennis elbow it is possible to have both conditions are the same time.
How Do You Treat Tennis Elbow and Golfers Elbow?
Treatment options depend upon the severity of the injury, past medical history, access to medical care and your physician’s preferences. In general, it is always best to start with conservative therapy. Treatment options include:
This includes activity modification, ice, heat, physical therapy, and acupuncture. Research has shown that therapeutic tape helps improve both grip strength and pain. (7)
When conservative treatment options fail, NSAID and steroid injections are often recommended. NSAIDs are thought to increase viral spread and should be avoided (8). Steroids compromise our immune function and also cause cell death and therefore should also be avoided (9).
Many different surgical options exist depending upon the severity of the injury including stripping away a portion of the tendon sheath to promote healing. The goal is to clean out any dead tissue as well as repair any tendon tears. Surgery may also involve the nerves especially with medial epicondylitis where the ulnar nerve is oftentimes decompressed or repositioned (10). Comp[lications occur and include loss of grip strength (11), infection, escalation of pain, ligament instability, neuroma formation and late return to work due to prolonged postoperative recovery time (12).
Does Cortisone Shot Help Golfers Elbow?
Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents that can provide short term benefits. Unfortunately, they can also cause cell death, compromise immune system function and repair and should be avoided.
What is the Best Treatment?
PRP injections have been shown to be more effective than steroids (13). PRP studies have shown PRP to be so effective in the treatment of lateral epicondylitis that is is now the standard of care (14).
At the Centeno-Schultz Clinic, we are experts in the treatment of Tennis and Golfer’s elbow. Under ultrasound guidance, super-concentrated PRP is injected into the areas of injury and tears to reduce swelling, promote healing and accelerate recovery. Board-certified, fellowship-trained physicians are available to evaluate your elbow pain in addition to assessing your shoulder and neck as both my be contributing to your elbow pain. Using the SANS approach which evaluates stability, symmetry, neurologic function and articulation, can optimize your clinical outcome.
Related: PRP for Tennis Elbow
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