Understanding Tennis and Golf Elbow: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

by | May 31, 2024

Tennis and golf may seem like leisurely sports, but for some, they can lead to a painful condition known as tennis elbow or golf elbow. These injuries occur due to repetitive gripping activities, causing discomfort in the tendons of the forearm. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a weekend warrior, it’s essential to recognize the symptoms and seek appropriate treatment to prevent further damage. In this guide, we’ll delve into the causes, symptoms, and effective treatments for tennis and golf elbow.

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, typically occurs with repetitive gripping activities, such as swinging a tennis racket or a golf club. The repetitive motion causes small tears in the tendons that attach to the outside of the elbow, leading to inflammation and pain.

On the other hand, golf elbow, or medial epicondylitis, results from repetitive gripping and flexing motions, commonly seen in golf swings, but also in other activities like lifting weights or using tools. These repetitive movements strain the tendons on the inside of the elbow, leading to pain and discomfort.

The symptoms of tennis and golf elbow are similar and often include:

  • Pain and tenderness on the outside (tennis elbow) or inside (golf elbow) of the elbow.
  • Pain that radiates down the forearm.
  • Weakness in grip strength.
  • Difficulty performing daily tasks, such as lifting objects or shaking hands.
  • Wrist and hand motions become painful, particularly when performing activities that involve gripping or twisting motions.


  • Rest and Ice: The initial treatment for tennis and golf elbow involves rest and applying ice to reduce inflammation. Resting the affected arm and avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain can help promote healing.
  • Anti-inflammatory Medications: Over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may be prescribed by your physician to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Bracing and Taping: Wearing a brace or using tape around the forearm can provide support and reduce strain on the affected tendons during activities.
  • Activity Modification: Modifying activities that aggravate the condition can help prevent further injury. This may involve adjusting your grip or using ergonomic tools to reduce strain on the elbow.
  • Education: Consider consulting with a tennis or golf professional to modify, change, or adjust the grip type and/or size. Proper form in these activities is crucial, as incorrect technique can lead to repetitive strain injuries.
  • Specific Training and Strengthening Exercises: Physical therapy is essential in treating tennis and golf elbow. At Sport & Spine Physical Therapy, we can prescribe specific exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the elbow and improve flexibility. These exercises may include wrist curls, wrist extensions, forearm pronation/supination, laser therapy, dry needling, and eccentric strengthening exercises.

While tennis and golf elbow can be challenging to prevent entirely, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Warm-up properly before engaging in physical activities, including stretching exercises for the forearm muscles.
  • Use proper technique and equipment when playing sports or performing repetitive tasks.
  • Take frequent breaks during activities that involve repetitive gripping.
  • Strengthening exercises to improve forearm strength and flexibility can help prevent injury.

Tennis and golf elbow can be painful and debilitating conditions, but with the right treatment and preventive measures, you can alleviate symptoms and prevent further injury. If you’re experiencing persistent elbow pain, it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly. The duration of your symptoms affects the type of treatments and the time needed to modify, rest, or refrain from activities. Try not to work repetitively through pain for prolonged periods of time.  When appropriate rest the affected arm, apply ice, and use anti-inflammatory medications as directed by your physician. Additionally, working with a physical therapist, such as those at Sport & Spine Physical Therapy, can provide targeted exercises and techniques to strengthen the affected muscles and promote healing. By taking proactive steps to address tennis and golf elbow, you can return to enjoying your favorite activities pain-free.