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Tennis Elbow / Golfer's Elbow

Both Tennis Elbow and Golfer's Elbow are painful overuse injuries that affect the muscles and joints of the elbow and forearm. They're nearly identical conditions except for one key difference. Tennis Elbow affects the outer aspect of the elbow and forearm, and Golfer's Elbow affects the inner aspect. But not all elbow pain is caused by tennis and golf. In fact, daily use of a keyboard and screen can cause a great deal of strain on your forearms. And that likely cause more elbow pain than tennis and golf combined.

The truth is, any repetitive task using your hands and fingers can cause elbow pain. Typing, texting, gripping, lifting, playing video games and rock climbing are all common causes. Even golf and tennis! These activities put a lot of strain on your forearm muscles, especially where they attach to your elbow. Do too much, and your muscles can get overworked and injured.


The good news is, soft tissue therapies like Graston Technique and Active Release are very effective for treating elbow pain. In fact, many of Dr. McGahey’s patients start to feel relief in just a few visits.

Medical image of inflammation and soft tissue injury in the elbow from Tennis Elbow.

What's Causing My Elbow Pain?

The muscles in your forearms are what allow your hands and fingers to grip, squeeze, and move. Most attach to either the inside or outside parts of your elbow. Those muscles are like cables that run through your forearms and attach to the bones in your hands and fingers. They do a lot of fine control work with activities like typing, using a mouse, opening doors and tying your shoes. And more brute force work with activities like doing yard work, lifting weights, rock climbing, or even playing tennis. Virtually anything you do with your hands and fingers relies on the muscles in your forearms to get the job done.

Most people use their arms and hands for a considerable amount of time on any given day. Especially if your day involves using a keyboard.  But with too much use, the muscles in your forearms can become overworked. Initially you may feel some soreness and fatigue, but the symptoms can be fairly mild. If the overuse continues, things can get worse. Tiny tears can occur in the muscles where they attach to the elbow. The result is inflammation, pain, and the formation of scar tissue. Scar tissue is like glue, and can cause all of those individual cables (muscles) to stick together. And that slowly robs you of your strength and range of motion.

Without proper treatment, this injury cycle can lead to chronic pain, weakness and further injury. Symptoms tend to come on slowly, but not always. Sometimes trauma, like banging your elbow against something, can cause elbow pain to occur more quickly. Regardless of the cause, the sooner in the injury cycle that you seek treatment, the more successful the outcome tends to be.

Man with pain and inflammation on the inside of his elbow from Golfer's Elbow.

Symptoms Of Golfer's & Tennis Elbow

Not surprisingly, the most common symptoms are pain and stiffness around the elbow. There may be swelling around your elbow, particularly after use. As the injury progresses, you may experience pain and burning that spreads down your forearm toward your wrist and hand, or to the area just above your elbow. In some cases, an elbow injury can lead to chronic pain, inflammation, and weakness with gripping and using your hand.

And although it can come on quickly, most elbow pain develops over a period of time, from weeks to years. That makes it easier to ignore at first, as symptoms are usually mild in the beginning and may come and go with activity. Eventually the pain stops going away, and often gets worse. That can make the activities you enjoy (and even the ones you don't) much less enjoyable. Even simple tasks like opening a jar, or turning a door knob can become quite painful.

Happy tennis players high-fiving and enjoying playing tennis without pain after getting chiropractic treatment for tennis elbow.

Effective Treatment For Elbow Pain

How quickly someone with elbow pain responds to treatment, really depends on two things. The first is, what type of activity caused your symptoms? Some activities place more stress on your elbows and forearms than others, and can result in a worse injury. The second is, how long have you been doing that activity for? Some people stop at the first signs of pain, while others will push through pain for months. The longer you wait before addressing an injury, the worse it can get, and the longer it takes to treat. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find relief. It just means it might take a little longer.

For elbow pain treatment to be effective, three important things need to happen:

  1. Reduce inflammation and any swelling around the elbow

  2. Break up scar tissue in the muscles around the elbow and forearm

  3. Return normal function to the joints of the elbow and wrist


Soft tissue therapies like Graston therapy and Active Release are fantastic weapons for accomplishing the first two objectives. And Chiropractic can help restore normal movement to the joints of the elbow and wrist. The combination of techniques can have you back to activity more quickly than passive therapies.

If elbow pain is interfering with your life, don’t ignore the warning signs. Dr. McGahey can help you get to the source of the problem, and create a treatment plan to help eliminate your pain as quickly as possible. Schedule an appointment today and get back to doing more of what you love to do.

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