Elbow Pain From Weight Lifting & Treatments

Elbow Pain Weightlifting

Do you notice that you have a pain in your elbow after an intense weight lifting session? When you reach for your water bottle, can you feel the pain start? Weight lifting can cause that elbow pain because you are overworking a tendon insertion during these lifting sessions. The pain can be located on the front, back, inside, or outside of the elbow. Pain on the outside of the elbow is called lateral epicondylitis, while pain on the inside is medial epicondylitis. The lateral epicondyle is an attachment site from muscles that extend the wrist. Meanwhile the medial epicondyle is for wrist flexors.

forearm muscles anterior flexors labeled

Why Does Weightlifting Cause Elbow Pain?

Your goal for weight lifting is to get your muscles in shape, but sometimes you can take it too far and overwork your muscles and tendons so that they become fatigued faster than normal. Fatigue can lead to stress and strain during the lifting process which can overwhelm the body and its ability to heal. Cells known as fibroblasts form collagen which is essential in the healing process. When your tendons undergo repetitive stress from weight lifting, the collagen is irregularly formed which leads to injury and sometimes a tear. Every time collagen tears, scar tissue is formed on the tendon, acting as the body's duct tape, but essentially leaving it vulnerable for further injury.

Lifting excessively heavy weights, performing the same gym routines everyday, and neglecting to train every muscle group are the most common causes of elbow pain. All these causes create a muscular imbalance and increases the strain on your joints. Poor form is also attributed to causing elbow tendon injuries. Poor form on a bicep curl or letting the weight whip the wrist at the end of elbow extensions overwhelms the tendon. Slow and controlled movements reduce this strain.

How to Treat Elbow Pain from Weightlifting


Sometimes your elbow pain will resolve itself if you rest from weight lifting for a while. However, just waiting for it to resolve on it's own could take months and keep you from weight lifting. To speed up your recovery, the at home treatment always begins with ice. Ice the sore muscle and tendon for 15 minutes to decrease pain and inflammation. Take the ice off for 15 to let the area warm up and bring blood to the injured area. Repeat this process several times a day. Some ice is good, but more is better.


Performing gentle stretches to the forearm musculature can also help reduce elbow pain. Wrist extensors are muscle that begin on the outside of the elbow and run toward the back of the wrist. These muscles are associated with gripping, ripping, turning a screw driver, typing, or lifting activities and when they are injured, they result in lateral epicondylitis. Since these muscles extend the wrist, you can stretch the muscle by pulling the wrist forward into flexion. Begin with your right elbow extended, and flex your wrist. Your left hand will gently hold the right hand and pull into flexion. Your goal is a comfortable stretch in the muscles. If it hurts stop! Pain is not a goal; we are trying for a comfortable stretch. When you stretch, you should feel a slight pull along the muscles, but there shouldn't be any elbow pain. Rotating your right arm and changing the angle of pull will change the stretch. Think of the positions of a clock, changing and rotating the pull from the 3 oclock to 9 oclock positions will enhance the stretch effectiveness. This stretch should be repeated 3-5 times a day.


Lateral epicondyle or medial epicondyle braces can be worn to decrease the strain on elbow tendons while letting you continue lifting. These counterforce braces helps to dissipate the force caused by muscles before it reaches your elbow. The brace should be snug, but not too tight as to cut off circulation.

Alternative Methods

Over the counter medications or topical treatments can be applied to decrease the pain and inflammation. Cortisone injections can be used to decrease the pain and inflammation, especially if the injury is becoming chronic. Massage therapy can also be effective at decreasing the pain and muscle spasms.

Graston Technique elbow pain

Specific Treatments for Lateral and Medial Epicondylitis

Advanced treatment focuses on reducing the muscles spasms and decreasing the inflammation through physiotherapy, stretching, exercises, and massage therapy. Proper treatment involves a provider actively working the muscles and tendons through muscle therapy or manual treatments. Relaxing the muscles and decreasing the spasms will dramatically reduce the stress on the tendons. Techniques such as Graston Technique or Active Release Technique will further increase the speed of healing.These techniques reduce scar tissue in the injured tissue and dramatically reduce the elbow pain, especially in chronic conditions.

Don't Let the Pain Go Untreated

Whatever you do, don't let your lateral or medial epicondylitis pain continue without treatment. If you find that over the counter medications and at home treatments are not working and your pain persists, contact our Chandler Chiropractic & Physical Therapy office for treatment. A more specific treatment may be needed to decrease the pain, muscle spasms, inflammation, and speed the healing.

Our clinic treats patients with a variety of muscle, tendon, joint, and ligament injuries. The clinic provides treatment for runners, tri-athletes, and weekend warriors in addition to common headache, neck, and back patients traditionally seen in Chiropractic, Physical Therapy, Massage Therapy clinics. We work with all ages and abilities of the residents in Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa, and Chandler AZ.