One of the most common injuries among athletes involves elbow pain. Nearly half of all tennis players and 58% of all baseball pitchers will experience elbow pain at some point or another, but it is also common among weightlifters, golfers, and even martial artists. While elbow pain is common, there are a number of things you can do to prevent this condition or to treat it at home.
The upper arm and forearm are attached with tendons, creating a hinge joint that may become or irritated after repetitive motion. This causes pain that may radiate from your wrist upward to the bony bumps on your outer elbow. Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow occur whenever tendons become inflamed, and may result in swelling and limited use. Tennis elbow results in pain on the outside of the elbow, while golfer’s elbow causes discomfort on the inside of the elbow. Both conditions are a form of tendonitis, which is inflammation or irritation of a tendon.
While repetitive motion is the most common cause of elbow pain, you may also experience it due to over-exertion, as is the case whenever you lift weights that are too heavy or perform too many repetitions. Gripping golf clubs or a tennis racket improperly (to include holding on too tightly) may also cause elbow pain, as can failing to warm the muscles before a workout. You could be more susceptible to developing elbow pain if you are overweight, have arthritis, or have previously experienced trauma to your tendons.
The most important element when treating elbow pain is rest. Avoid performing strenuous activities for at least 24 hours, or longer if symptoms persist. Use cold packs on your elbow for ten to 15 minutes several times each day, and use a brace to help stabilize the elbow. Light massage two to three times a day, along with over-the-counter medications containing ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help as well. If you do not notice an improvement in your symptoms after three or four days, seek advice from a physician.
To prevent elbow pain, don’t forget to train the rotator cuff and scapular muscles. When these muscles are properly developed, you are less likely to experience muscle fatigue that might lead to an overuse of the extensor tendons in the forearm. Training the “non-beach” muscles of the forearm will help with this as well. Use proper form when lifting weights, performing swinging motions, or pitching. Always warm your muscles up before working out, and use wrist and elbow splints if you are prone to injury. Stop exercising immediately if you experience elbow pain to prevent minor injuries from developing into major ones.
Prevention and early treatment is key if you are to keep elbow pain from becoming a serious injury that significantly affects your ability to perform daily tasks. Make using the proper form and strength building a part of your training program, then seek treatment immediately if you do experience it.