It’s inevitable to get some aches and pains once you start hitting some new records in the gym. As your devotion to the gym increases, strength and size follows. Anyone who has broken and old bench or deadlift record knows how gratifying it is. It easily becomes an addiction. You continuously add more weight to the bar.
Overtime, continuous weight training can put some serious wear and tear on your joints. This is especially true for elbows. Pushing 315 off your chest puts a lot of pressure on them. The same goes for pulling 405 off the ground and maintaining a good grip. But what do you do if you have elbow pain that seems to be exacerbated by every training session?
Tennis players aren’t the only ones with “Tennis Elbow”. Tennis elbow is a repetitive strain injury (RSI): a combination of chronic exhaustion and irritation in the muscles and tendons on the back of the arm and the outside of the elbow, which extend the wrist and fingers. Hotter, sharper pain right at the elbow probably indicates a classic case dominated by tendon. Duller, more aching pain, spread more evenly around the back of the arm, usually suggests a case of tennis elbow that afflicts the muscle tissue more. Cases dominated by muscle pain tend to be much more treatable.
The elbow may not actually inflamed! Often elbow pain from lifting instead shows signs of continuous connective tissue degeneration from use overtime.
Some may not associate elbow pain with a weak grip, but it happens. The muscles responsible for clenching your fist attach to your inner elbow on the humerus. After a few months to years of deadlifts, rows, flies, pull ups, and pull downs, the tendons connecting the muscles to the bone can become inflamed.
People perform more presses and elbow extension movements than they may realize. Anything from military, bench, to triceps push downs, you’re extending your arms a decent amount of time. Even squatting requires some upward force from your hands to help stabilize the bar on your shoulders.
If you experience ongoing pain, the first thing you should do is take some time off. Time off seems like a drag, but it’s better to recover from a minor pain for a week or two than to get hurt and be out for even longer.
Applying heat to the elbow will increase blood flow to it. This will allow a smooth range of motion with less pain. Heat works best when applied before any moves or stretches begin. Apply for no longer than 15 minutes.
TIP: Use a towel to help insulate your heat pack. This helps isolate the area even more and creates a snug fit. It also helps to keep a slight bend in the elbow with the heat.
Massages work best shortly after heat is removed. Like heat, massaging the area also increases blood flow to the area. It also breaks up adhesions, can work out scar tissue, and reduces the likelihood of muscle spasms.
Massage the sore area this three times a day. Use a firm yet comfortable pressure. Vary up the duration from 5-10 minutes as you see necessary.
Stretches are used to help keep muscle spasms at bay, decrease risk of injury, and “wake up” nerves. Performing a certain stretch can decrease elbow pain for grip.
Wrist extension stretch
This stretch will elongate the muscles of the forearm responsible for clenching your fist. Doing so will increase their elasticity, decreasing the likelihood of a tear. Pull back on your fingers right before you feel discomfort and hold. Perform at least 5 times for a 15 second hold.
Move your elbow through its natural range of motion. In other words, perform biceps curls and then relax your arm. Doing this will activate muscles and nerves while lubricating the joint. In consequence, both the muscles firing and joints lubricating can keep pain at bay.
TIP: Don’t use resistance with this when starting out. Whether you can curl 80s in each hand or not, it’s best just to move the joint. As time goes on and pain lessens, add a few pounds and continue.
Ice reduces inflammation and swelling in an area. It also numbs the area temporarily. Both the tendon and the muscle tissue can become inflamed. Like heat, it’s advised to apply ice no more than 15 minutes at a time. If desired, reapply ice 15 minutes after removal.
Ice is often recommended AFTER the massages, stretches, and movements are performed. This is to reduce any inflammation the movements or stretches may have caused. Ice is not mandatory, though. If you found heat works best, use it before and after.
TIP: If you want a more custom fit ice bag, mix ice water and rubbing alcohol in a plastic bag. Make the ratio ¾ ice water and the rest rubbing alcohol. The alcohol keeps the water cold longer with less bulky ice. Thus creating a more custom fit.
Worst case scenario if it’s really bad and prevents you from lifting, you might just need to take several months off because the surgery for tennis elbow is not very effective. Studies showed there is no benefit to be gained from the standard tennis elbow surgery “the Nirschl procedure” over placebo surgery in the management of chronic lateral epicondylitis. In fact, may increase the morbidity of the condition in the immediate post-operative period.