Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow

Overview

Tennis elbow is the common name for a condition known as lateral epicondylitis. Similarly, golfer’s elbow is the common name for medial epicondylitis. Both medial and lateral epicondylitis are injuries to the tendons that attach the muscles to the bony bump, or epicondylitis, of the elbow.

Symptoms

Tennis Elbow

  • Pain and tenderness that radiates from outside of the elbow and along the forearm

  • Weakness in the forearm

  • Weakness when gripping objects

Golfer’s Elbow

  • Pain and tenderness down the arm from the inside of the elbow to the wrist

  • Weakness in the hand or wrist

  • Swelling over the epicondyle

  • Pain when gripping or flexing the wrist

  • Numb or tingling sensation in the ring and little fingers

Causes

Although lateral epicondylitis has earnt itself the name of tennis elbow, approximately only 10% of cases occur as a direct result of participation in the activity. Other causes include repetitive elbow flexion and extension, wrist flexion and extension and twisting of the wrist (supination and pronation). Many of these movements are associated with certain occupations and cannot be avoided, and their repetitive nature over a sustained period will increase the likelihood that the condition will develop.

The onset of medial epicondylitis, or golfer’s elbow, is more commonly associated with participation in sporting activities, such as golf, rowing, and racquet sports. Similarly, it is provoked by activities that involve repetitive movement of the elbow and forearm. Golfer’s elbow is reported less frequently and only accounts for between 10 and 20% of epicondylitis cases.

There are a variety of medical conditions that have been shown to have a correlation with an individual’s likelihood to develop tennis and golfer’s elbow. A history of carpal tunnel syndrome, corticosteroid use, De Quervain’s disease, smoking and diabetes are all risk factors to be taken into consideration.

Diagnosis

To determine a diagnosis a health professional will examine an individual for the presence of pain, numbness or tingling during elbow flexion and extension, decreased grip strength or weakness in the arms and the exacerbation of those symptoms with repetitive movement. They will also test the individual’s range of movement at the elbow, their sensation and the strength of their wrist. Imaging such as x-rays, MRIs and CT scans can be used to investigate for evidence of the deterioration of the tendons supporting the epicondyles.

 

 

References
Yuhas, M., Harris, K., Talal, A., Kamineni, S. (2015) Lateral and Medial Epicondylitis. MOJ Orthop Rheumatol 3(2): 00090. DOI: 10.15406/mojor.2015.03.00090