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Elbow Pain

Joe Fleming explains how to prevent and treat Elbow Pain caused by weightlifting.

Generally speaking, weightlifting is very good for the joints. It helps lubricate the joints and strengthens the muscles around them to keep them healthy and supported. Weightlifting also strengthens the bones and keeps joints free from pain and swelling.

Clearly, weightlifting is beneficial to the joints as a whole. However, many people make mistakes when they are lifting weights that can cause joint pain and increase their risk of injury. The elbow joint is one of the joints that are most frequently affected by weightlifting mistakes.

If you are someone who struggles with elbow joint pain when you lift weights, or if you just want to prevent such pain from occurring in the future, keep reading. Listed below are some important tips and tricks you can apply today to both prevent and treat elbow pain caused by weightlifting.

Common Causes of Elbow Pain

First, it is important to understand what kinds of mistakes people make when weightlifting that can contribute to elbow pain.

Elbow pain is usually caused by inflammation one of the tendons in the elbow. Inflammation of the medial tendon in the elbow, known as golfer's elbow, and inflammation of the lateral tendon, known as tennis elbow, are the two most common types of inflammation.

Some common issues that cause either form of inflammation include:

  • Poor weightlifting technique, such as lifting and/or lowering the weight too quickly or not lining up the wrist and elbow joints properly
  • Lifting too heavy and putting unnecessary strain on the elbow joints, this often happens with exercises like biceps curls or bench presses
  • Progressing too quickly and taking on more weight or volume than you are ready for
  • Overdoing isolation exercises like biceps curls or triceps extensions, these exercises rely solely on the elbow joint, so overdoing them can easily wear down the joint
  • Neglecting to stretch or warm-up the wrists and elbows properly
  • Under-eating omega-3 fatty acids, this can contribute to inflammation and joint pain and slow the healing process
  • Muscle imbalances or tension in the shoulders, upper back, lats, or chest

As you can see, there is a lot that can go wrong when it comes to weightlifting. Even if you feel fine now, you could be setting your elbow joints (and other joints, for that matter) up for a world of hurt later on.

Luckily, it is never too late to take steps to correct your mistakes and improve your weightlifting technique to prevent elbow joint pain.

Preventing Elbow Pain While Weightlifting

Some simple steps you can take to prevent elbow pain while weightlifting includes:

  • Decrease overall reps and sets for isolation exercises like biceps curls and triceps extensions: it is easier to wear out your elbow joints when doing exercises like this
  • Consider cutting out isolation exercises altogether: your arms already get targeted when you do compound lifts like bench pressing and rows, so you technically do not need to keep hammering them with endless amounts of curls and extensions
  • Warm-up properly before each workout and gradually work your way up to heavier weights to give your joints and muscles time to adjust
  • Decrease your weight: if you are lifting more weight than you are ready for, you are more likely to experience joint pain and injuries; leave your ego at the door and drop down to a weight you can manage without pain
  • Train your whole body: traditional body part splits, for most people, put too much strain on specific joints and increase injury risk (training that frequently also does not seem to be particularly effective when it comes to building strength and muscle)
  • Give yourself time to recover: your body needs time to heal, and focusing on full-body training can help free up your schedule so that you are able to recover without sacrificing progress in the gym

Exercises to Prevent Elbow Pain

There are also some specific exercises you can do to decrease your risk of experiencing elbow pain while lifting. By keeping your wrists, hand, and forearms strong and mobile, you are less likely to struggle with improper alignment and compensatory patterns that contribute to elbow pain.

The following exercises are great to include in your Warm-up routine:

Finger Stretch

Bring all your fingers and thumb together and place a rubber band around them. Slowly open the thumb and fingers as far as you can, then bring them back together. Repeat 20-25 times.

Wrist Flexor Stretch

Extend your arm straight in front of you with your palm facing up. Use the other hand to pull the fingers back toward your body so that you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat 3-5 times before switching sides.

Wrist Curls

Use a light dumbbell, 1-3 pounds is plenty, and sit on a bench with your forearm flat on your thigh. Hold the weight with the palm facing up, then slowly bend the wrist to curl it up toward your forearm, keep your arm resting on your thigh. Repeat 10-12 times, then switch sides.

Treating Elbow Pain

If you are already struggling with elbow pain, the following tips can help minimize your symptoms and get you back to pain-free workouts in no time:

  • Use the RICE method, resting, icing, compressing, and elevating your elbow can help reduce acute pain
  • Get a massage, if you think your pain is caused by tightness or a muscle imbalance, regular massages can help loosen things up and improve your ability to correct these issues
  • Stretch regularly, the exercises mentioned above can also benefit people who are currently dealing with elbow pain
  • Increase your consumption of omega-3s, either from whole food sources like salmon, sardines, eggs, and grass-fed beef or from a high-quality fish oil supplement
  • Swap barbell exercises for dumbbell alternatives to work on correcting muscle imbalances

Final Thoughts

Elbow pain is irritating and can seriously hinder your gym progress. To keep yourself from getting slowed down by an injured elbow joint, be sure to implement these prevention and treatment tips right away. Your elbows will thank you!


Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • FLEMING, J. (2018) Elbow Pain [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article356.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. With a goal to inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life's challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health and ageing to social narratives, motivational pieces and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.

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