Sometimes referred to as "golfer's elbow" (medial) or "tennis elbow" (lateral), inflammation of the forearm is common among individuals who repetitively flex or extend their wrists.
The injury cycle states that repetitive movement causes tissue trauma, inflammation, muscle spasms, adhesions and altered neuromuscular control. Continual repetition may result in a muscular imbalance. The bottom line: when your elbows are on fire from playing golf, lifting weights or writing an English paper—it sucks!
I have one simple goal: to reduce your pain so you can withstand your workouts without lowering the weight or missing time in the gym. We begin with the least aggressive approach and progress to more intense methods. Athletes who experience slight to moderate elbow pain should try Method 1, below. If the symptoms fail to subside within two weeks, progress to Method 2. For athletes with chronic elbow pain who have tried Methods 1 and 2 for at least a month, Method 3 may be implemented by a professional. (I am not a physical therapist, and I recommend consulting with a physician to better address your underlining condition.)
Reduce or eliminate elbow pain with these three methods, which you can implement before and after your workouts. Check out the video player above for a demonstration.
1. Self Massage
Administer self massage by gripping the two bony protuberances at the edges of your elbow and aggressively massaging them, rubbing back and forth for 45 seconds. You'll know when you've finished when the area looks red; this indicates a profusion of blood flow.
If you have access to an athletic trainer or certified personal trainer, find what I call the "cuss-word spot" (a point on the muscle that's extremely sensitive) and hold for 45 seconds while you flex and extend your wrists.
2. Barbell/Ball Crush
Find a Smith machine or a standard Olympic barbell. Place your forearm on top of the bar, 2-4 inches below the point of pain. For our athletes at Show Up Fitness, I suggest a mid-forearm position, which is usually where we find the cuss-word spot. Place your opposite arm over the sore arm to add pressure on the affected area. Slide your arm back and forth for 10 repetitions front and back. End by flexing and extending your wrist for another 10 reps.
DO NOT place the bar on a bone. If you experience shooting pain, STOP IMMEDIATELY. The bar shouldn't move, only the skin gliding over the muscle.
Made popular via Kelly Starrett, a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) who represents CrossFit, this extreme method needs to be implemented as a last resort and under professional supervision.
Place elastic tape above the elbow joint and begin to wrap it toward the wrist. Once you cover the elbow joint, begin to re-wrap, working back up to the starting position. Keep in mind the cuss-word spot and apply extra pressure to this area. After you've wrapped the joint properly, flex and extend your arm. As seen in the video, this can be very discomforting due to the material. Repeat this process for 1 minute.
Starrett uses a more advanced method, but remember, he is a DPT. Stop immediately if your fingers go numb, you become anxious or experience any sort of radiating pain into your fingers. Your hand will turn a dusky color, but it'll return to normal once the wrap is removed. It's common to see small, red bruises under the skin. They're caused by abrasions from the wrap, but they'll dissipate shortly after. Implement this modality before and after workouts.
In addition to these rehab/prehab techniques, strengthening your forearms may help prevent the injury from recurring in the future. Grab a few light dumbbells (5-10 pounds) and sit down on a bench. With your forearms resting on your thighs and your wrists hanging over your knees (palms up), slowly raise your wrists until they're fully flexed (Wrist Curls). Aim for 5-8 reps, raising the weight up in three seconds and lowering it in another three. After you've completed both arms, turn your hands down (knuckles up) and repeat in the same super-slow fashion to strengthen the wrist extensors (Reverse Curls).
For more information and YouTube videos, check us out at showupfitness.com
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