Although they are often confused, Golfer’s Elbow and Tennis Elbow are two different overuse injuries of the tendinous structures of the elbow and wrist. More specifically, these injuries are categorised as ‘tendinopathies’.
What’s a tendinopathy?
The term ‘tendinopathy’ is used to refer to any condition, disease or injury (pathology) affecting a tendon. There are three key ‘stages’ to a tendinopathy according to Cook and Purdum (2015):
- Reactive tendinopathy
- Tendon disrepair
- Degenerative tendinopathy
Although each stage is defined with differing signs and symptoms, these stages belong on a continuum. This means that a tendon can move between stages in either direction, depending on load/stress applied to it – especially at the start of a tendinopathy. It also means that stages can be overlapping, meaning a tendon could express symptoms from more than one stage at any one time. Cook and Purdum suggest that it is vital to make sure that the load applied to the tendon is not too much or too little to ensure that tendons recover from tendinopathies.
What is Golfer’s Elbow?
Golfer’s Elbow (aka Medial Epicondylalgia) is a tendinopathy affecting the tendons on the ‘underside’ of the forearm – also known as the Common Flexor Tendon. At the elbow, this tendon attaches the Common Flexor Tendon to the Medial Epicondyle – the bony protrusion on the inside of the elbow.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis Elbow (aka Lateral Epicondylalgia) is a tendinopathy affecting the tendons on the ‘topside’ of the forearm – also known as the Common Extensor Tendon of the wrist. At the elbow, this tendon attaches the Common Extensor Tendon to the Lateral Epicondyle – the bony protrusion on the outside of the elbow.
So in short, both of these tendinopathy conditions affect the forearm. However, one affects the inside of the elbow (Golfer’s Elbow), and the other affects the outside of the elbow (Tennis Elbow). Both conditions can be managed effectively with targeted exercise programmes.
If you are experiencing forearm pain then you are warmly invited to enquire about assessment and treatments available at the Move Well Clinic in Stourbridge, UK.
Cook JL, Purdam CR. Is tendon pathology a continuum? A pathology model to explain the clinical presentation of load-induced tendinopathy. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2009;43:409–416