Summertime for many people should be about enjoying their favorite sports and recreational activities. Unfortunately, many of us are avoiding our favorite activities due to injuries that are a typical result of recreational sports. Two of the most prevalent injuries that occur are tennis and golfer’s elbow. Even if you don’t play tennis or golf, you can find yourself in the rough with these injuries.
Are Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow the Same?
Actually no. Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow are different types of injuries that both involve forearm muscles, but impact the muscle joint connection points on opposite sides of the elbow. Although they do both relate to inflammation and damage in the elbow, they involve the wearing down of different tendons and the slowing of their ability to repair themselves.
Pain from a tennis elbow involves the muscles and tendons of your forearm that extend to your wrist and fingers. Symptoms of tennis elbow may develop gradually, with mild pain that slowly worsens over time. Tennis elbow usually doesn’t come from an injury, but rather from overuse of the tendons in your forearm.
The symptoms of tennis elbow include weak grip strength and pain or burning sensation on the outer part of the elbow. Usually, the symptoms get worse when you use your forearm in activities like holding a racquet, turning a wrench, or shaking hands.
Golfer’s elbow involves the forearm muscles that attach from the wrist and go to the “funny bone” area of the elbow near the inner bump. These muscles are responsible for the twisting motion of the wrist, which explains its connection to golf.
Symptoms of golfer’s elbow include pain or tenderness near the funny bone, or inner bump of the elbow, and a reduction in grip strength. This type of injury can happen outside of sports activities. For instance, workers that regularly complete tasks that involve repetitive wrist flexion or rotation of the forearm in which the palm is turned downwards commonly suffer from golfer’s elbow.
Here are examples of simple exercises that can help reduce and manage your symptoms of both tennis and golfer’s elbow injuries:
For Tennis Elbow: Hold your arm out in front of you, palm facing down, and pull your hand and fingers back towards you using your other hand. Do so gently so as not to cause pain. This stretch should not be painful, so if it hurts, pull more gently for a slight stretch. You should feel the stretch up your forearm. Hold for 30 seconds, relax, and repeat three times.
For Golfer’s Elbow: This exercise is similar to the one for tennis elbow, but the hand is inverted to the other direction. Hold your arm out in front of you, palm facing up, and gently pull your hand and fingers back towards your body using your other hand. Hold for 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat three times. You can do these stretches throughout the day.
Wrist Extension: One range of motion exercise for tennis elbow is a wrist extension. Begin with your elbow at a 90-degree angle, palm facing down, resting on a table’s surface. Gently extend your wrist to lift it off the table (this should not be painful). Repeat ten times. As you progress, you can add weight, like holding a water bottle, to add resistance and incorporate strengthening into the exercise.
Wrist Flexion: This exercise is similar to the wrist exercise above, but the palm is in the other direction. For the wrist flexion exercise, begin with your elbow at a 90-degree angle, palm facing up, resting on a table’s surface. Gently extend your wrist to lift it off the table towards the ceiling (this should not be painful). Repeat ten times. You can also add weight resistance to add strength training to the exercise.
Grip Strengthening: For this exercise, all you need is a squishy ball or “stress ball.” Hold the ball in your hand and gently squeeze. Hold for five seconds, relax, and repeat ten times. This exercise is helpful for both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow.
Hammer Time!: An easy strengthening exercise you can do is informally called the “hammer exercise.” For this exercise, you will need a hammer as your weight resistance. Hold the handle of the hammer, and keep your elbow at 90 degrees, rested flat on a table’s surface. Slowly rotate the hammer towards the center of your body, turning the direction of your palm downwards. Then slowly reverse the motion, rotating the hammer outwards— your palm begins facing up with the heavy side of the hammer pulling on your arm. Rest briefly. Repeat ten times.
We Are Ready To Help You With Your Elbow Pain!
If you are ready to swing back into the activities you have been avoiding due to your elbow pain, take the first pain-free step of scheduling a consultation with our office. Our team will run perform examinations to help find the cause of your discomfort and offer options for getting you back into life without elbow pain!
For Your Health,
Dr. Leo McCormick, Dr. Darryl Hajduczek, and Dr. Leslie Freeman