Dr. Philip Jacobs on Tennis Elbow VS Golfer’s Elbow

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When elbow pain presents, many people assume it is Tennis Elbow, a well known overuse condition, but did you know that another condition – Golfer’s Elbow – could also be to blame?  I sat down with TSAOG sports medicine specialist and medical director for the AT&T Championship Dr. Philip M. Jacobs to find out the difference.

What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis Elbow – or Lateral Epicondylitis – is pain on the outside of the elbow that is a result of overuse (repeating the same motions over and over again).  These repetitive motions cause damage to the tendons of the forearm.

Does it only affect tennis players?
As the name suggests, Tennis Elbow can be caused by motions inherent to playing tennis or other sports with racquets.  However, Tennis Elbow is certainly not limited to tennis players and can affect a wide variety of people who engage in this type of repetitive motion, including participation in other sports as well as certain professions, including carpentry and painting.

What is Golfer’s Elbow?
Golfer’s Elbow – or Medial Epicondylitis – is pain on the inside of the elbow that is a result of overuse, which causes damage to the tendons of the forearm.  The pain of Golfer’s Elbow may spread to your forearm and wrist.

Does it only affect golfers?
Like Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow can be a result of the sport for which it is named, but can also affect a wide range of non-golfers who flex their wrists repeatedly and clench their fingers.  Some others at risk for Golfer’s Elbow include baseball pitchers, people who frequently use screwdrivers, and painters.

How can people tell the difference between Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow?
On the most basic level, Tennis Elbow presents as pain on the outside of your elbow and Golfer’s Elbow presents as pain on the inside of your elbow.  Neither is tied to a specific injury and both tend to gradually get worse as time goes on.
However, there are other conditions and injuries that can cause elbow pain, so it is best to visit your orthopaedic surgeon to confirm your diagnosis and determine the most effective treatment plan.

How are these conditions treated?
The vast majority of Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow cases are treated non-surgically, using a combination of rest, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and bracing.  If participation in a certain sport is deemed to have caused your condition, your physician may also recommend an equipment check to make sure that you are using gear (racquets, clubs, etc) that is properly fitted for you.
Surgical treatment is usually only pursued if non-surgical treatment is ineffective for 6-12 months.  The treatment procedure for Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow involves the removal of diseased muscle tissue and the reattachment of healthy muscle tissue back to bone.  This is generally done in an outpatient setting, followed by rehabilitation, with return to athletic activity expected within 4-6 months.


Dr. Philip M. Jacobs is no longer a member of The San Antonio Orthopaedic Group, effective 9/30/2016. To schedule an appointment with a different sports medicine specialist, please call 210.281.9595.


NOTE: We cannot provide medical advice or diagnoses without seeing a patient in person.

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