So, what exactly is Tennis and Golfers Elbow? Why do they develop? How can we tell if we have them? How do we manage them?
These two conditions are also known as lateral and medial epicondylitis (tennis and golfers elbow, respectively). Lateral meaning positionally on the outer side of the body, medial, meaning positionally closer to the inside or middle of the body.
They are actually quite similar to each other! They are chronic, overuse injuries involving the irritation and inflammation of the tendons in the forearm. Tendons attach muscle to bone.
Medial epicondylitis, or golfers elbow, is the irritation of the flexor tendons and their common origin. These muscles flex (or bend) the wrist and fingers. They help us grip tightly. This is why you may experience pain or tenderness on the inside of the elbow.
Lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, is the irritation of the extensor tendons and their common origin. These muscles extend the wrist and fingers. This is why you may experience pain or tenderness on the outside of the elbow.
These overuse injuries can effect individuals in any work setting and can completely impact day to day life. The most important thing to take away from this discussion is this: DON’T WAIT! If you feel any of the following symptoms coming on, take action:
- Pain and tenderness to the inside or outside of the elbow.
- Pain with grasping or lifting objects
- Pain with performing daily tasks
- Stiffness in the forearm
- Stiffness in the hand and wrist
- Tingling/numbness in the forearm or hand
- Weakness (usually due to pain)
- Aching pain in the biceps or triceps
- Aching pain at night time.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, try the following:
- Contact a physiotherapist to make an accurate diagnosis. Their treatment may include needling, soft tissue techniques, exercises and stretching.
- Apply ice if the injury is new, heat if it is chronic. Alternate heat with ice if it is chronic
- Stretch the forearm muscles- both flexors and extensors, regardless of the location of your injury.
- Massage stiff muscles with a frozen water bottle by rolling it over the forearm.
Our body can be thought of like a well oiled machine or vehicle. As we age (whether that’s from 20-25 or 60-70), we must take extra care to prevent injuries. Just as a vehicle needs increased maintenance with the more miles that are put on it.
If you’re someone who uses their hands for a living (which is pretty much everyone), take care, be proactive. Keep up with stretching and maintenance! Addressing the mobility of the hand and forearm is integral when preventing and treating medial and lateral epicondylitis.
Lastly, don’t assume that just because we’re all “getting older”, that we cannot do the same things as we used to. We are made to move, play and stay active. Let’s keep it that way!