Elbow pain after curling can be mild to severe, depending on the cause. Since curling requires repetitive motions of the elbow and force from weight resistance, possible causes for your pain are tennis elbow, strains or sprains. Consult with your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Tennis elbow will often cause a burning pain that radiates from the outer part of your elbow down your forearm. Your wrist and hand may be weak making it difficult to grasp objects. Sprains and strains have similar symptoms, although they affect different units of the body. A sprain is an injury to the ligament, and a strain is an injury to the muscles or tendons. Both sprains and strains can make it difficult to bend and extend your elbow. There will be pain, swelling, and tenderness of the elbow area. If you sprained the ligaments of your elbow, you may have heard a popping sound while doing curls. Spasms may be felt if you strained the muscles or tendons.
Tennis elbow often results from damage to the extensor carpi radialis brevis, which is a forearm muscle that stabilizes the wrist when the elbow is extended. As the elbow bends and extends, the muscle rubs against the bony elbow tip, making it prone to injury. Over time, curls can cause inflammation of the tendons because the repetitive motions wear down the muscles and tendons of the forearms. You are most vulnerable to tennis elbow between the ages of 30 and 50. Elbow strains can also be from repetitive movements or can result from lifting weight that is too heavy and tears the muscle or tendon or from the supinated position of the forearms. A sprain may occur if you're lifting weight that's too heavy during a curl or from a quick motion that pulls and tears the ligament.
If your doctor suspects tennis elbow, he will first rule out arthritis, nerve compression and neck problems through a series of tests. You will need to rest the elbow and take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication to manage the pain. A forearm brace can rest the muscles and tendons. During the first few days, ice the area. On the fourth day, switch to a heating pad since this stimulates blood flow and aids in the healing process. These same steps can be used to treat a sprain or strain. Physical therapy can improve healing of tennis elbow, but surgery may be needed if the symptoms do not subside within a year. If you do need surgery, you will be unable to do curls for four to six months. For sprains and strains, a sling can be worn to immobilize the injury. If the injury is mild to moderate, you can expect it to heal within six weeks. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to fix a ligament, tendon or muscle that has completely torn or ruptured.
If you experience soreness in your elbow while doing curls, take a break and rest the muscles. You may be lifting too much, so lower the amount of weight you're lifting and then gradually increase the weight over several weeks. Consult with a professional at your gym to ensure you're using proper lifting techniques. Always warm your muscles with a 15-minute walk or jog before starting to lift weights. Stretching can also prevent injuries before they occur.