Do I have Golfer’s Elbow or Tennis Elbow, or perhaps both? I would not have thought it possible nowadays to receive a wrong diagnosis about the elbow pain, strain and “pulling” sensation I’ve felt in one of my elbows and forearm for almost a month now. Having seen a medical doctor to determine the possible cause and treatment for the elbow problems I’ve been experiencing, and being diagnosed with Golfer’s Elbow instead of Tennis Elbow, left me feeling perplexed.
Having spent a great deal of time researching the difference between Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow before and after seeing the doctor, in order to get a pretty good idea of the causes and treatment for either Golfer’s Elbow or Tennis Elbow, it seems to me that I actually should have been diagnosed with Tennis Elbow instead of the other. The primary differences between Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow are the location of the pain and the physical activity that leads to injury. However, both conditions are caused by overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm, leading to inflammation and pain around the elbow joint.
Golfer’s Elbow or Tennis Elbow Causes
What is Golfer’s Elbow? Golfer’s Elbow, also called Medial Epicondylitis, is similar to Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis) in some ways. But, the pain and tenderness from Golfer’s Elbow is said to be felt on the INSIDE (medial) of the elbow, on or around the joint’s prominent bony area, rather than the outside area of the elbow. Any repetitive activity, such as pitching/throwing a baseball or softball, typing, vacuuming, lifting weights during exercise, repetitively lifting too-heavy items with one arm, painting, hammering, raking or chopping wood and other repetitive wrist, hand or arm movement can lead to overuse of the muscles and tendons and cause golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow.
Tennis Elbow, on the other hand, is said to be felt on the OUTSIDE (lateral) area of the elbow, which is where my elbow pain primarily exists, plus strain and a shooting sensation along my forearm when lifting a coffee cup or just about anything else. In most cases, according to legitimate sources, “the pain is generally caused by inflammation of the tendons which connect muscles to bones in the elbow. As the elbow tendons become inflamed with this condition, it is considered to be a type of elbow tendonitis.”
It should be noted that Bursitis, pain on the back of the elbow, is often due to “excessive leaning on the joint or a direct blow or fall onto the tip of the elbow. A swollen lump can often be seen and the elbow is painful at the back of the joint.” Since I don’t recall hitting my elbow on anything that might have caused the elbow injury, but having an unconscious tendency to lean on that elbow, I couldn’t help but wonder if I might have bursitis, but the doctor said no.
With Golfer’s Elbow, pain may radiate down the entire affected arm, along with elbow inflammation or noticeable elbow swelling. The affected elbow may be stiff and tender to touch and some people may find that holding the arm in certain positions will alleviate the discomfort for a short period of time. This condition may affect the arm, hand and wrist and often, some daily activities such as holding and grasping may become difficult to do.
Overuse injury, also called cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) or repetitive strain injury (RSI), are conditions characterized by chronic irritation to a body part. Many conditions fall under the category of overuse syndromes, some of these are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Wrist Tendonitis, Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow, Bursitis and other conditions affecting the hip, knee and leg, foot and ankle joints.
Treatment for Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow
Since I do regularly engage in several of the possible causes listed above for either Golfer’s Elbow or Tennis Elbow, I can’t really be sure as to the specific cause of the problem. Treatment and prevention is more important to me now than knowing what exactly caused the current problem in the first place.
There are a variety of treatments available for either or both conditions including application of heat or ice; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), Naproxen (Aleve), Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), or aspirin. I decided against cortisone injections due to poor results from numerous studies done on its effectiveness, but rather chose to wear an elbow support strap/brace to reduce strain and movement of the affected elbow, and am pleased with the results thus far.
The medical doctor prescribed two medications for me (besides the elbow brace and “rest” of the elbow/arm), neither of which I am willing to take due to the extensive list of possible side effects and warnings of taking either medication. One medication prescribed is called Nabumetone (Relafen), where the label says the drug itself may cause some rather unpleasant and downright serious side effects, even life-threatening (possible blood clots resulting in heart attacks or strokes). The prescription information page included with the medication says, “Do not lie down for at least 10 minutes after taking this drug”, but fails to explain why. Umm, thanks but no thanks, doc.
The other medication is called Methlyprednisolone (Medrol), has the same or similar “possible” side effects as the previous medication, including “vomit that looks like coffee grounds”, amongst many other unwanted possible side effects. Again, thanks but no thanks. While either or both of these medications may actually be of great help treating Golfer’s Elbow or Tennis Elbow, and the prescribing doctor may have many years of education and experience, I do my own homework and research regarding health matters (It is MY body after all) rather than blindly following the advice of someone else, anyone else.
Even with the medications prescribed by the doctor and the recommendation to wear the elbow brace and “rest” the elbow/arm, the doctor said “give it a month” to heal and focus on prevention for the future. Following the doctor’s orders to rest the arm for a month includes “not lifting anything more than 5 pounds”, no “heavy” house cleaning including pushing a vacuum (with that arm), and just giving the elbow time to recuperate. That’s about as close to a “cure” for Golfer’s Elbow or Tennis Elbow as I’ve heard so far that sounds remotely reasonable.