Give yourself a little elbow time
Surprised? If that’s your reaction, then you’re lucky enough not to be aware of how much an inside elbow pain can be a problem. But if your reaction to the article’s title was eager “yes, please!” then you’ve found out (as many people before you) that sore elbow not only happens much often then we’d like but also effectively unable you to do many upper body exercises. No only exercises, though
– when you have elbow pain when bending your arm to brush your teeth of you experience elbow pain when lifting your groceries – then you realize you should have taken better care of your elbow. So if you don’t want it to happen, or it already happened, and you want some relief from elbow joint pain – you’re in a very right place.
What’s hurting and why
In the elbow, two forearm’s bones – radius and ulna – form a hinge joint to the upper arm’s bone –humerus. The primary role of an elbow is flexion and extension of the arm. We use it most when we move our hands, grab things and manipulate them. In other words, during the day our elbows are used in open chain movements (as opposed to the knees, fixed to the ground or other objects, used
mostly in closed kinetic chain movements). And here’s the catch. When we start callisthenic workout we begin to use our elbows in closed kinetic chain movements – bodyweight exercises often place our upper body in a closed chain, for example during handstands.
What does it mean for our elbows? All sorts of new strains and forces, new kinds of movements. There’s a lot that your elbows are going to do for the first time when you’ll begin your bodyweight workout. The excess may also be a problem – if, for example, you’ve never lifted weights, and now you’re starting pull-ups, it means, that – even though the motion itself is nothing new for the elbows – the force that effects it is. In other words, if you want to take good care of your elbows, you have to think before starting the exercise. And if you want to do with your elbows something other than bending and straightening – ease into it. And when the exercise means that your elbows will be under more pressure than usual – don’t start with too many reps. Otherwise, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll have to deal with elbow tendonitis, muscle strain, ligament sprain, bursitis, or even stress fractures.
Diagnosing a specific inner elbow pain source or reason is quite difficult unless there was a particular trauma. There are some conditions that appear more often than others, so we’ll focus on that. But even giving your inside elbow pain, its name won’t explain the reason for it. And of course, you should avoid self-diagnosing – contact a specialist instead.
So, what may be a problem when an inner elbow pain appears?
- It can be an inflammatory issue (having over-stressed and tense muscles leads to irritating of
the tendons attached to the arm and in consequence to the inflammation). If that is the case,
you should give it 2-3 weeks of rest.
But unfortunately in most cases, that’s not enough, and we hear such diagnosis like two kinds of elbow tendonitis, that is:
- Golfer’s elbow is when you have inside elbow pain due to the damage to the tendons outside your elbow
- Tennis elbow is very similar to the golfer’s elbow, but the difference is you’re dealing with the damage to the tendons inside your elbow.
And there’s also another elbow condition, though it is not painful. I think about elbow hyperextension, which occurs more often in females. It may cause you discomfort during some of the
exercises (particularly handstands), but you can have it under control by contracting your biceps – very slightly – during the exercises.
Fix your elbows! Elbow exercises and massages
All right. Now’s the time for some useful information on what to do to avoid the problems from the paragraph above or what to do if you have one of them
1. Of course, there are useful elbow exercises:
- Rotations: take dumbells, weights or resistance band and put your forearm on a bench so as you palm is facing your side. Start rotating your elbow. You can do 10-15 reps with elbow bent and straight.
- Step on a resistance band (or take some weight into your hand). With both hands raise the weight up to your chest and then with just one hand, slowly and in a very controlled manner lower it down. This exercise has a double effect – of course, it allows you to control elbow extension under resistance but also strengthens your ability to keep your wrist in a neutral position.
- The grip on the rope/ towel: in a sitting position grab the rope in both of your hands with your elbows down – place your left hand on the height of your nose and your right hand above your head. Try pulling yourself slightly.
- Pull-ups on rings – the neutral grip position (palms facing each other) relieves some stress from the forearms and elbows. If you can’t perform standard pull up, try assisted one – have part of your bodyweight supported or use bands.
- Elbow extensions with weights: place your forearm on a bench with a weight outside of it. Lift your forearm to the 45-degree angle. Slowly move your elbow to the end of the bench and hold the extension.
- You can also try some elbow stretches: grab a ladder’s side rails or something similar, turn your back to it and stretch.
And here’s another approach which may turn out helpful. You can try and massage the socalled trigger points – small knots in your muscles, which can cause pain in the place where
they’re formed or – to makes things even harder – in a spot seemingly unconnected. You can deal with the muscle tensions and trigger points by massaging them:
- When dealing with pain located outside your elbow – first start massaging the inside of your lower arm. With your hand or a massage ball, try to release the tension from the painful areas. With a ball, you can bend your legs slightly and lean on the wall. When using your arm, sit down and place massaged arm on your leg. Press the outside of the other hand’s elbow to your lower arm and start opening and closing your fist. Then you can proceed to your upper arm and look for tense areas there; they are usually located on the inside of a muscle, few centimetres above the interior elbow bone
- When dealing with the pain located inside your elbow – place the ball on the outer side of your lower arm and look for the painful areas. Then proceed to the muscle on the backside of your upper arm. Lift your arm and try to grasp the muscle in the middle of the backside of your upper arm. Roll the muscle between your fingers and search for painful areas.
But remember – tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are serious and complicated conditions. You shouldn’t treat it by yourself, so if your pain is persistent you should immediately contact a
specialist who will diagnose the problem and advice you about the therapy. Doing it all by yourself may in consequence make the situation even more severe.
Your elbows are not alone
But tending only to your elbows when you’re experiencing an inner elbow pain might not be enough. Work of the elbows is connected to other body parts – if for example, your shoulder girdle isn’t strong or mobile enough, your elbow has to endure more stress hence the pain. So to fix your elbow, you have to find the real cause of the problem. In other words, if you’re suffering from inside elbow pain, look closely at your shoulders, wrists and neck. Here is but a sample of what you can do about problems in each of these body parts.
- Shoulders: you can do some stretches and flexions – kneel in front of some elevated surface, pull one arm across your chest and lean forward so that your chest is resting on your arm. Extend the other arm in front of you and lean towards the shoulder of the arm that’s pulled across your chest. You should feel a stretch at the back of the shoulder. Another example: extend your arms straight on a bench or elevated surface. You can stay up on your knees like, or you can drop into more of a kneeling position. Press into the bench as you bring your chest down towards the ground and forward towards the bench, in one sweeping motion. Focus on rolling the shoulders outward as you move in and out of the stretch. You can do both arms at the same time or one after another.
- Wrists: you can work on them while on your hands and knees, with palms facing down and fingers toward your knees. Start pressing your hands to the ground. There are many variations of this exercise, try for example put your fingers facing each other in the middle or fingers toward your knees with palms facing up.
- Neck: rotations – lay on your back with arms on your sides. Start rotating your head left and right. You can also change the angle of the rotation. Then start rotating your head up and down. Stretches – sit on the floor with your legs crossed. With your chin, down, start stretching your neck muscles by mowing your head slightly to the left and right. You can also put your hands behind you and start moving your head left and right. Hold the stretch on each side. On your hands and knees start moving your head up and down. Then start moving it to the left and right. You can also bend yourself with the arms straight, palms down and your legs under your butt. Start switching palm of one hand and then pull it back to your chest. Switch the palm back and return to the position.
For more details concerning shoulders, wrists and neck exercises check out our other articles! And remember as well, that sometimes it’s best to change your workout plan and choose such exercises that won’t cause you any discomfort.