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Tennis / golfer’s elbow

What is tennis / golfer’s elbow?

Tennis / golfer’s elbow is a form of tendonitis caused by overusing the tendons in the forearm. The tendons can become strained as a result of repetitive motions of the wrist and arm.

The two conditions are very painful and are similar, except tennis elbow causes pain on the outside of the elbow while golfers’ elbow causes pain on the inside.

What causes tennis / golfer’s elbow?

Despite its name, only around five out of every 100 people with the condition develop it from playing tennis or golf. A significant number do have elbow pain as a result of sporting activities, however.

The condition can occur in anyone whose work entails making repetitive wrist and arm movements, such as painters, plumbers, butchers, carpenters and, of course, sportsmen and women. You can also develop the condition if your forearm muscles are not used to performing certain activities such as decorating or gardening.

Straining the muscles and tendons in the forearm leads to a break down of collagen and can cause microscopic tears and inflammation around the lateral epicondyle, which is the bony lump on the outside of your elbow. Over time, these microscopic tears cause tendonitis and can become partial or full thickness tears.

Among the activities that can trigger tennis / golfer’s elbow are:

  • Manual work such as plumbing or bricklaying
  • Racquet sports like tennis or squash
  • Throwing sports like javelin or discus
  • Gardening
  • Painting and decorating
  • Activities that involve small, repetitive hand or wrist movements, such as typing or playing the piano
  • Playing the violin or other activities that involve repeatedly bending the elbow

It is a common condition that most often occurs in 30-50 year olds. It may last one to two years and can often recur.

Tennis / golfer’s elbow

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