What are the Most Common Causes of Elbow Pain While Weight Lifting?

Dan Cavallari

Elbow pain while weight lifting is a fairly common condition, especially among novice weight lifters who have not yet mastered the proper motions of lifting. The pain can occur on any side of the elbow, and it will vary in intensity according to how much lifting one has done and how efficiently. Tendinitis can cause elbow pain as well, and this inflammation of the tendons can be recurring, especially if the lifter does not take steps toward improving his or her lifting motion. Sudden, jerky motions while lifting can exacerbate tendinitis as well as other causes of pain.

The elbow joint.
The elbow joint.

Muscle strains can lead to elbow pain while weight lifting, and like tendinitis, this condition is often caused by a jerky or unnatural lifting motion. A muscle strain occurs when the tiny fibers that make up a muscle begin to tear, causing pain and inflammation. A strain will usually heal on its own after several days or weeks, though in more severe cases, a visit to a medical professional may be in order. If the pain remains after several days or weeks, or if the pain worsens, the muscle may have ruptured, which is a much more serious issue that may need to be remedied with surgery.

Muscle strain may cause elbow pain while weight lifting.
Muscle strain may cause elbow pain while weight lifting.

Overuse of the muscles in the arm can contribute to elbow pain as well. Even the most well-conditioned lifters may feel this pain when they begin lifting heavier weights for the first time, or when they begin doing more repetitions than usual. The muscles will tire, and when this happens, they tend to tighten. This tightness can lead to discomfort, limited mobility, and a feeling of weakness throughout the arm. If the lifting motion was not being done correctly to begin with, the fatigued muscles are more likely to strain or rupture. Proper conditioning and preparation can prevent such pain, and using proper arm supports when executing lifts can ensure a smooth, proper motion.

Overuse of the muscles when weight lifting may cause elbow pain.
Overuse of the muscles when weight lifting may cause elbow pain.

A more serious and permanent condition that may cause elbow pain while weight lifting is arthritis, which occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joint begins to wear out. This can be a painful condition, and unfortunately, there is no cure. Most treatment focuses on pain management, and lifters who have arthritis should be aware of how the lifting exercises they do affect the degradation of the joint. Conditioning exercises and specific medications can help slow the progress of this condition.

Elbow pain while weight lifting is a fairly common condition.
Elbow pain while weight lifting is a fairly common condition.
Weight lifters who have arthritis should be aware of how the lifting exercises they do affect the degradation of the joint.
Weight lifters who have arthritis should be aware of how the lifting exercises they do affect the degradation of the joint.

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Discussion Comments

anon953928

People when in doubt, err on the side of caution. Go to the doctor!

Ivan83

At what point should I decide that the soreness in my elbow is caused by something more than just being run down from my workout? I have had a nagging, persistent and increasingly sharp pain in my elbow for about 10 days. I thought that it would pass and I have been staying out of the gym but it has not gotten any better.

Do you think it is time to see the doctor? It will cost me a lot of money out of pocket but this pain is really starting to drive me crazy.

backdraft

@nextcorrea - Good point. In my experience the way to overcome this is to expand your repertoire of lifts. If your elbow is strong but the rest of your arm is weak all the pressure of the lift will go to your elbow which will only make any pain or discomfort even worse.

nextcorrea

Often times elbow pain occurs as a result of trying to lift too much. The elbow is an incredibly strong joint but it is not indestructible. If you are doing very concentrated lifts with heavy weights you run the very real risk of spraining or doing even worse injury to your elbows.

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