Elbow pain is a common result of many physical activities. It isn’t limited to those who play tennis, baseball, or sports that require swinging. It can also be the result of pushing, pulling, or lifting. Whether you use the weight bench periodically or daily, elbow pain from lifting is often the result of hard work, to improve muscle strength and overall fitness.
Elbow pain when lifting may be a sign of weak hands or wrists. While there is no immediate solution, strength training focusing on hands and wrists can help reduce elbow pain in the future. For the short term, there are many steps you can take to reduce the irritation that produces elbow pain.
For chronic pain, rest is the first step in alleviating irritation. While this may not be what you want to hear, the problem is not going to get better if you try to fight through the pain. Taking a couple weeks off from your normal workout routine can go a long way in helping alleviate irritation of the nerves, tendons, and ligaments of the elbow.
The next step is to apply heat. Applying heat to the area helps improve blood flow and movement of the elbow joint. This should be done for 15 minutes, prior to any stretching or movement of the elbow.
Along with the application of heat, massage can help improve blood flow and movement of the elbow. Massage works best when used after the application of heat. Massage with gentle pressure can be done for 10 minutes, up to three times each day.
When the pain begins to subside, stretching can help reduce muscle spasms. Most people don’t think about stretching to reduce elbow irritation. However, it can help reduce pain and strain caused by gripping. There are plenty of stretches that can be done prior to exercise or workouts, just as there are stretches for other parts of the body, like the spine, hamstrings, calves, and shins.
One stretch involves a wrist extension (photo). With the arm in front of the body, the hand is placed with fingers toward the ceiling, while the fingers are pulled gently back towards the body. This movement lengthens the muscles of the forearm and prepares them for gripping motions. It can be done for five repetitions, holding the fingers for about 15 seconds each time.
Another useful movement is to go through a complete range of motion with the elbow, by extending and flexing the forearm. Bicep curls without weight helps get blood flowing to the elbow joint and helps lubricate the joint, while warming up the surrounding muscle groups.
A final recommendation to reduce elbow pain from lifting, is to use ice to reduce inflammation. This can be done after movement, or after resting the joint, when the initial pain occurs. Ice can be applied. For a more customized ice pack, mix ice water with rubbing alcohol. This allows for flexibility to apply the pack to all affected areas. It also helps keep the ice pack cooler for a longer period of time. The best mix is three quarters ice water to one quarter alcohol.
For more severe injury, rest may be needed, for an extended period of time. The surgical procedure to relive tennis elbow has not been proven effective, in most cases. It is far better to treat the symptoms and reduce the cause of injury, when possible. This is because continued use can lead to wearing away of the joint. Surgical intervention is then less helpful, as a permanent solution.
Elbow pain when lifting is a sign that something is wrong. It should be addressed as soon as possible. Rest for a few days and the application of heat can give the elbow joint some time to begin healing and to reduce muscle spasms. Exercise and stretching, to reduce stiffness and lubricate the joint, can help prevent future pain. Strengthening the gripping muscles of the wrists and hands can also be helpful.