Trying to figure out why your elbows hurt? Watch the video above!
Elbow pain isn't fun at all. It bothers you when you hold bags, open jars, turn your doorknob, do pull ups, rope climbs, snatches, handstands, and it even hurts just to straighten out your elbow!
Elbow pain is extremely common for the fitness athlete to experience. This pain can be on the inside of the elbow (medial) or the outside of the elbow (lateral). Medial elbow pain is most commonly known as "Golfers Elbow" and lateral elbow pain is most commonly known as "Tennis Elbow". Clinically these are called medial epicondylopathy and lateral epicondylopathy. It is an aggravation of the medial or lateral epicondyle and the tendons that insert into them. The root cause of these are a mix of mobility deficits (most common: shoulder), stability deficits (most common: shoulder), faulty positions (most common: front rack, overhead, dip/bench press), and inappropriate training volume (most commonly pulling, gripping, olympic lifting).
Watch the video above for more information on this!
1) Reduce Volume of movements which aggravate your elbow.
It's going to be hard to completely eliminate everything that aggravates your elbow, but you need to take out the major movements which elicit the greatest pain. These movements are most likely going to be painful are snatches, cleans, overhead squats, rope climbs, pull ups.
2) Put of the "fire"
Once you take away the major movements which aggravate your elbow, it's time to begin treating the pain. You need to decrease tension at the elbow. This will ultimately make your elbow feel better! Do this by loosening up your forearms. You can do this by rolling on a lacrosse ball, kettlebell, and by wrapping your elbow with a voodoo floss band. A major key is to NOT roll the most painful area of your elbow. Roll the meat of your forearm.
3) Begin to load the tissue!
In order to get the elbow to heal, you need to LOAD the insertion point of the forearm muscles in a controlled manner. You can do this by performing VERY-SLOW Full range of motion tempo wrist extensions (lateral elbow), curls (medial elbow), Neutral to Pronation to Supination (lateral elbow), and Neutral to Supination to Pronation (medial elbow). The longitudinal loading of the tendons will begin to heal the injured area. These exercises WILL aggravate your elbow some. Thats OK! As long as your pain level stays below a 3/10 and your symptoms return to baseline within 24 hours, then you are on the right track. I recommend 3 sets of 15 reps, every other day to start out. Over time you can increase the frequency to everyday, and you can increase the weight as your elbow begins to feel better. Over time your pain will decrease and your elbow will begin feeling better.
Steps 1-3 will help you eliminate your elbow pain. Steps 4-5 will help you prevent the elbow pain from coming back in the future.
4) Work on your shoulder mobility and stability.
If you are dealing with elbow pain, most likely you have an underlying shoulder mobility or stability deficit. In order to prevent the elbow pain from coming back, begin improving your shoulder mobility (if you are hyper-mobile, skip this step). Simultaneously, you need to gain control and stability in your shoulder within the positions you need to be stable and mobile in!
Most likely your elbow pain was preceded by a spike or increase in training volume. Maybe you just started a new exercise program or maybe wanted to get better at pull ups, rope climbs, snatches, overhead squats...or all of the above! You simply threw too much at your body too quickly. In result, you developed elbow pain. As you return to training, it's important you develop a plan to address your volume. As you become pain free, slowly increase volume to allow your body to positively adapt to the stresses you are putting on it. Failing to address this will mostly likely result in another experience with elbow pain.
If you are experiencing elbow pain, find a clinician who understands the rehab process and understands your goals to help you get back to the activities and sports you love. They will guide you along your journey, let you know what's normal and what's not normal, and they will get you back to the things you love in the quickest most efficient manner possible!
Do you have lingering elbow pain? Does your elbow tend to "flare up" a few times a year? Do you fear hurting your elbow again? Does this fear prevent you from living life fully, and training without limitations? I have good news for you, you don't need to live in fear of elbow pain any longer!
The solution? Bulletproof your body by fixing your foundational movement patterns and building strength within those movement patterns! Build resilience, run fast, run far, lift heavy weight, and live your life without pain or worry.
Here at Ground to Overhead Physical Therapy, we help athletes all over the country resolve their athletic pain. We do this with in person appointments for athletes local to our clinic. Remotely, we help athlete through individualized training programs designed to resolve the athletes pain and achieve their goals. We coach the athletes through electronic communication, video analysis, and video calls; guiding them step by step along the process of eliminating their chronic pain.
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Dr. Michael Tancini. DPT, PT, CSCS