Tennis and golfer’s elbow

Tennis elbow is a term used to describe what happens when you overuse your arm and the elbow joint in a way that causes pain on the outside of the elbow. Golfer’s elbow generally causes pain on the inside of the elbow. Both are caused by the tendons and muscles becoming strained by being used repetitively by sporting activities such as tennis and golf, as well as occupational causes such as gardening, cutting meat, plumbing and painting. Both men and women may develop these conditions, but generally those affected are aged over 30. It has been suggested that tendons heal more easily when you are younger, preventing on-going damage. 

Activities that are likely to cause damage to your elbow area are those which require repetitively using tools that weigh more than one kilogram, lifting weights frequently each day, or any activity using one or both arms for two hours or more each day. Most people only suffer from tennis or golfer’s elbow in the arm that they use the most, but either or both may be affected.

With tennis and golfer’s elbow, the tendons and muscles around the elbow become torn and then inflamed and swollen. When you attempt to use the arm, such as by picking up a teacup, pain occurs, and care is needed to prevent the pain from limiting what you can do both at work and at home.

The best treatment for soft tissue injuries is always rest. Try not to do any activity that causes pain, as this will hasten healing and a return to pain free movement in your arm. If the injury is recent or the pain very sharp, then ice packs are helpful. Pain relieving medications and rubs help to relieve the pain of these conditions, but should not be used to allow you to work despite the pain. Pain is a message that tells you whatever you have been doing is causing an injury, so you should stop doing whatever is causing the problem.

Consult your community pharmacist for advice and help with treating pain that you believe may be tennis or golfer’s elbow. They are able to supply medicines to treat this painful condition, as well as advise you about elbow supports and splints that may help to relieve the pain of this condition.

Your pharmacist can also refer you to a physiotherapist or doctor if you need exercises or prescription medicines to help your elbow heal. You will need to persevere with treatment as it generally takes between six months to a year for tennis or golfer’s elbow to recover and allow you to use your arm without pain.