What are the most common causes of a sore elbow when weightlifting? | Exercise.com Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

What are the most common causes of a sore elbow when weightlifting?

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for Exercise.com. He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • One of the most common reasons for elbow pain among weightlifters is golfer’s elbow.
  • Arthritis is another very common cause of a sore elbow.
  • There are a few simple steps a person can take to help prevent this sort of pain from ever happening.

There are plenty of things when you are on a weightlifting routine that can slow you down.

However, one thing that puts the brakes on your workouts fast is any sort of injury or reoccurring pain.

In this case, we are not referring to the pain caused by muscle soreness that you feel after a workout; this is to be expected and it is actually a sign that your weightlifting is having a positive effect on your muscles.

However, situations where you might have continual pain, like in the elbow, can make working out more difficult with every day that passes.

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What Are Some Common Elbow Issues When Weightlifting?

Here are some of the most common causes and types of elbow pain from weight training:

  • Golfer’s elbow: One of the most common reasons for elbow pain among weightlifters is golfer’s elbow. Don’t let the name fool you. Just because you’re not playing golf, that doesn’t mean you can’t suffer from this condition. Frequent up and down motions will often cause the tendons of the triceps and forearm to rub against the ulna of the elbow causing inflammation and pain.
  • Tennis elbow: Tennis elbow is caused by pushing during exercise. This occurs when the lateral epicondyle, the bony bump on the lateral side of the elbow (golfer’s elbow occurs within the medial epicondyle) rubs against the tendons of the triceps.
  • Arthritis: Arthritis is another very common cause of a sore elbow. This typically happens to people who have been weightlifting for a long time. Over time, elbow joints can become stressed which can lead to pain due to joint inflammation.

Pain that is localized in the front of the elbow is generally due to overworking and stressing of the bicep muscles. Pain located above the elbow typically happens as a result of focusing too much time working the triceps region.

How Can I Prevent a Sore Elbow When Weightlifting?

While pain in the elbow can be a real nuisance when it comes to weightlifting, there are a few simple steps a person can take to help prevent this sort of pain from ever happening.

The first step is to make sure you are using proper weights when lifting. It is important to keep pushing yourself and to try to avoid playing it too conservatively. However, in some cases, if you are increasing the weights you lift but are unable to lift that weight properly, you might be doing more harm than good. There is a balance between pushing yourself and your body to help build muscles and strength and pushing yourself too hard and causing injuries. Find that balance.

You will also want to be mindful of having the right weight balance. This can often be resolved by using proper equipment. If your weights are not balanced correctly you could end up hurting yourself. You need to learn how to attach the weights so that they don’t shift or are uneven on the bars. If you are working out with equipment that you can’t balance, you should refrain from using that equipment until suitable replacements can be found.

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What Are Some Common Treatments for a Sore Elbow When Weightlifting?

If you are having mild discomfort that does not go away then the first approach might be to try a simple anti-inflammatory medication. This may be all you need to get over the immediate pain. However, it is not a recommended long-term treatment as the continual use of high doses of anti-inflammatories can often cause liver damage.

A simple treatment is by icing the affected area. It is by far one of the easiest treatments that you can do. By simply icing down the area where you are feeling the pain, usually in 20-to-30 minute intervals, you will notice a significant decrease in the pain you feel.

The easiest and sometimes the most effective treatment for a sore elbow is to rest. In some cases, the pain can be so bad that lifting is simply not possible. In those cases, rest is a given. However, even if the pain is minor, you may want to rest a little while before you hit the gym again. Once you feel ready to get back to lifting remember to take it slowly until you are sure that you are not risking re-aggravating the injury.

If all else fails, you need to see a doctor. You might just have a minor issue, but it could be more serious. If you want to continue weightlifting, it is best to make sure you are healthy enough to do so and that you are not making the pain and potential injury worse by continuing to lift.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a physical therapist help with elbow pain?

Yes. Physical therapists can help identify the cause of the pain and come up with a treatment plan to both cut down on the pain and to strengthen the muscles surrounding the area.

Should I see a doctor if I have elbow pain and numbness in my fingers?

Yes. If your elbow pain persists for longer than a week, despite rest, and/or if your elbow pain is accompanied by numbness or tingling, you should see a doctor.

  Are there any braces that can be used to help sore elbows?

There are compression sleeves and elbow braces on the market that can be used to stabilize your elbow.

Go PRO today for access to our exercise finder and carefully-built workout plans, to locate exercises that will strengthen your weaknesses and help to prevent elbow pain.

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