Pushups & Tendinitis

fitness girl doing pushups in park
Good form decreases the likelihood that you'll develop tendinitis. (Image: VeryUlissa/iStock/Getty Images)

If you've got a dull ache, tenderness or mild swelling in the area around your elbows, wrists or shoulders, push-ups could be causing you to suffer from a bout of tendinitis. This inflammation of the joints most often occurs due to repetitive movement over time. So, if you dove into the 100-push-ups-per-day challenge, it could be afflicting you.

Although push-ups might not be the cause of your tendinitis either, the exercise could aggravate the condition.

How Tendinitis Develops

Repetitive movement is source No. 1 for tendinitis. While that may be exercises repeated over and over at the gym or on a tennis court, for example, it also could be movement such as hunching over a computer keyboard, typing or hammering. As you age, you become more susceptible to tendinitis because you lose flexibility in the tendons. Any joint can develop tendinitis.

Push-Up Form and Tendon Pain

Improper form during push-ups could cause you to develop tendinitis from the exercise, especially if it's something you incorporate in every workout, multiple times per week.

Remember that your fingers should face forward during a push-up, to prevent abnormal rotation of the shoulders. Point the fingers in toward each other, and you'll automatically flare your arms outward. This increases your risk of joint pain and decreases to effectiveness of the exercise.

Keep your elbows over your wrists as you lower down and up, rather than collapsing ahead or outside of them to avoid stressing the elbow joint. Also, the elbows ideally form no more than a 45-degree angle with your torso during the lowering phase of the push-up; elbows that flare out can be injurious to the shoulder joint.

Keep your shoulders pulled back and down for the entire duration of a set of push-ups. Avoid caving through the shoulder blades and allowing the chest to protrude forward — this strains the front of the shoulder joint.

Side view of mid adult multiethnic woman wearing pink exercise shirt doing pushups while holding dumbbells.
Placing your hands on weights during a push-up lessens the bend in the wrist joint. (Image: Ron Chapple Stock/Ron Chapple Studios/Getty Images)

What to Do

If you have tendinitis, you'll need to rest the affected joint. This may mean no push-ups for a while. Even if push-ups didn't cause the tendinitis, if you feel pain during them, you need to lay off.

In addition to rest, sometimes for four to eight weeks — or longer — over-the-counter pain medication, ice and heat therapy and splints may be used to treat the symptoms. If you see a doctor, he may offer steroid injections or refer you to a physical therapist.

Definitely don't ignore pain in your joints, when you're doing push-ups or at other times. If gone untreated, your tendon could weaken to the point of tearing. In very serious cases of tendinitis, surgery may be recommended.

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