Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are considered to be overload tendon injuries, which occur after minor and often unrecognized trauma to the proximal insertion of the extensor (tennis elbow) or flexor (golfer’s elbow) muscles of the forearm:
- Tennis elbow: reactive tendon pathology of extensor forearm muscle origins, causing lateral elbow and upper forearm pain and tenderness. Caused by repetitive stress at the muscle-tendon junction and its origin at the lateral epicondyle.
- Golfer’s elbow: reactive tendon pathology of flexor forearm muscles, causing medial elbow pain. Caused by repetitive stress at the muscle-tendon junction and its origin at the medial epicondyle.
Tennis elbow causes pain and decreases the motion of the elbow and arm due to swelling of the tendons on the outside section of the forearm. The cause of this condition is from extensive overuse of the muscles and tendons in the region of the elbow. For this condition, physical therapy is primarily used to decrease the swelling and inflammation and reclaim function.
Golfer’s elbow causes pain and decreases the motion of the elbow and arm due to swelling of the tendons on the inside section of the forearm. Golfer’s elbow is caused by an overuse of the tendon, which can cause small tears to occur after repeated activity.
An elbow injury can accompany other arm injuries or remain an isolated injured portion of the arm. It can strike anyone for a variety of reasons. Pain in the elbow can come on gradually, or cause sudden sharp discomfort. Most elbow injuries are caused by sports injuries, falls, vehicle accidents, and overuse of the elbow. Physical therapy is a way to treat injuries to the elbow in a way that helps promote total healing.
Initial treatment for epicondylitis can start before a person sees a physical therapist or physician. Resting from the problematic activity may relieve the pain within a few days.
To assist recovery, a person may also:
- administer ice to the elbow and inner part of the forearm
- take over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications
- practice strengthening exercises
- stretch the forearm
- use a brace for additional support
- return gradually to activity that involves the arm
In some cases, a doctor may also recommend:
- corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation
- plasma-rich protein injections
Surgery will be considered if treatment alternatives have not worked. The surgeon may remove damaged tissue. They may also remove buildups of scar tissue or extra bone, which could be putting pressure on the tendon.