Treatments for Elbow Pain From Weightlifting

Senior woman lifting barbells in a gym
Lifting weights can result in golfer's elbow. (Image: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

It may sound a little odd, but elbow pain associated with weightlifting is often the result of "golfer’s elbow." Using improper techniques as you lift weights can overload the muscles and tendons in your elbow, leading to pain and tenderness on the inside of the joint and along the interior of your forearm. This is often accompanied by weakness in the hand and wrist, tingling or numbness in the fingers and stiffness or even immobility of the affected elbow. Self-care measures are typically recommended to treat this condition.


Low section view of a young woman exercising in a gym
Instead of working on your upper body strength, focus on your legs. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images)

One of the first things you should do to improve elbow strain is to rest the affected elbow. This doesn’t mean you should stop lifting altogether. Instead of working on your upper body strength, focus on your legs until the elbow pain subsides. Do not start lifting with your arms again until you can do so without elbow pain. Stop immediately if your elbow hurts so you don't worsen the condition.


Man holding compress to elbow, close-up
Apply ice to the affected elbow. (Image: Tom Le Goff/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Apply ice to the affected elbow. Icing helps minimize inflammation to any damaged tissue, which can alleviate pain. recommends icing your elbow for no more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, four times a day. Any more can actually worsen the condition.


Close-up of a man bandaging his elbow
Compression (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Many people find compressing the affected elbow in an elastic bandage lessens the pain. Like icing, compression reduces inflammation of damaged tissue, which helps relieve your discomfort. However, continue to wrap your elbow even after the pain subsides, especially prior to lifting. The elastic bandage can minimize the load on your elbow, reducing stress and strain on the muscles, tendons and joint. Instead of an elastic bandage, you can use a forearm strap to relieve the load from lifting.


Young man helping a Young woman lift dumbbells in a gym
To prevent re-injury, consult a personal trainer at your gym. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

To prevent re-injury, consult a personal trainer at your gym. Your technique is likely causing strain to the muscles and tendons of your elbow, and a trainer can correct this issue by showing you how to lift properly. He will teach you to keep a rigid wrist position to minimize the load on your elbow. A trainer can also ease you back into this athletic pursuit, choosing activities that aren’t as stressful on the elbows.


You may also benefit from stretches that engage the muscles and tendons in your forearm and elbow. An exercise known as the wrist flexor stretch stretches the muscles used to lift weights. Extend the affected arm out in front of you with your palm facing the ceiling. Drop your wrist, with the tips of your fingers pointing toward the floor. Grab your fingers with your other hand and gently pull them to you. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and release. Complete a total of five repetitions.

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