elbow pain inforgraphic

How To Fix Elbow Pain In The Gym

Does it seem like you can’t get through the day without having elbow pain? You feel it while you’re working out, when you lift your laundry basket, or even when you twist the cap off your water bottle.


Elbow pain is common, especially among active individuals. Once you understand the location and cause of the elbow injury though, treating it becomes simple. This leads to having it be something you can work with instead of having it work against you!


Identifying Elbow Pain


The 2 most common elbow pains happen on the inside and outside of your elbow joint.


Tenderness or pain on the bony prominence on the outside of your elbow (lateral epicondyle) is known as lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow. Tenderness or pain on the bony prominence on the inside of your elbow (medial epicondyle) is known as medial epicondylitis or golfer’s elbow.


The injuries are similar in nature but just differ in location. They are both classified as “overuse” injuries that are caused by repetitive use of the wrist extension or flexion. This can be commonly found with people that practice their sports often, work with their hands often, lift heavyweight in or out of the gym frequently, or even limitations with the shoulder that leads to the elbow working overtime to compensate for the shoulder. 


No matter the cause, the result is inflammation in tendons around the elbow leading to the pain in the first place.

Things You Can Do To Fix It 


Everyone’s specific injury will need different methods but here are some 


Identify The Cause


If you know what causes your elbow pain, you can get to the root cause of the issue and prevent or limit future injury. For instance, if it’s an overuse injury from something you do at work you can adjust your posture or arm positioning in a way that wouldn’t aggravate your elbow. Likewise, if you find yourself constantly getting injured with the same lifts in the gym, then you’ll likely need to adjust your positioning/form or switch to a joint-friendly alternative to that exercise. 


Mobilize Surrounding Joints


As mentioned earlier, overuse of the elbow could be a result of tight wrists and/or shoulders. If the joint above or below the elbow isn’t able to work to its full capacity, then the elbow has to take on the extra workload to compensate. Which is a big contributing factor to elbow pain. Mobilizing the surrounding joints will take the pressure off – literally – the elbow and evenly distribute it as intended.


Here are a few general mobilization exercises that you can start doing today for your wrists and shoulders.

Limit Isolation Exercises


Isolation exercises, where the elbow is the only joint being worked, will only further strain the tendons around the joint. This isn’t to say you can never do curls again, but a break from them while doing more compound lifts will do good for your elbow. On that note, opting for dumbbells over barbells can also prove to be beneficial to your elbow’s health. This is because dumbbells will limit compensations that occur with barbell lifting allowing for a more fluid motion while training. 


Using Modalities 


Icing, heating and massaging are all great ways to alleviate inflammation at the joint. Again, the pain in your elbow can be a result of tissue restriction in other areas of your body so while you’ll ice and heat locally, at the elbow joint, massaging surrounding muscle groups could pay dividends in your elbow healing. This includes your upper back, chest, biceps, and lats. You can also foam roll these areas if massaging isn’t as accessible to you.


Supplement Omega-3’s


Omega-3’s have a wide variety of benefits to the body – you can read more about them here. Reducing inflammation, swelling, and formation of scar tissue are also benefits you can expect to receive from supplementation with Omega-3’s. You can increase your intake of Omega-3’s by including salmon, tuna, flax seeds, walnuts, and chia seeds in your diet. Supplementing with high-quality fish oil is also an effective and easy way to boost your Omega-3 intake. Our go-to brand for fish oil is Top Notch Nutrition Omega-3 for high quality, easy to digest fish oils that are third-party tested and approved.

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