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Elbow Pain

Posted by Michio, 15 January 2012 · 3,012 views

I've been having some elbow pain lately. It started a couple of weeks ago when I tried to move up 5 lbs on my overhead press, and it actually felt pretty severe. I did one set of 5 on my top set and felt a sharp pain building in my left elbow. I rested for a couple of minutes, to see if it would go away, attempted another set, and before I could even fully extend the weight, my elbow hurt way too much and I racked the weight. My entire left forearm and including my hand started to tingle, so I stopped pressing movements for 4 days, then tried overhead press again. However, it still hurt mildly despite deloading 10 lbs.

The pain is also there when I do bench press, but not quite as bad, even when I do my heaviest working set.

It's a sharp pain when I'm pressing a weight, and it persists for a short time after exercise as a dull, throbbing pain that seems to radiate from the ulnar portion inside the joint near my bicep. When I flex my bicep, either with my arm extended or contracted, the pain becomes more pronounced. I feel no pain when doing a tricep extension. In upper body pressing movements, and even in the row, the bicep and tricep are acting as stabilizers, and my elbow was slightly aggravated today after doing bent-over rows.

I have tried improving my technique, really paying attention to how experienced powerlifters are pressing and reading about common elbow problems. It's not tennis elbow, golfer's elbow etc. It's not a problem with the ulnar nerve. I don't know what it is. I did find out my forearm hasn't been totally perpendicular in relation to the ground/bar and correcting my grip and elbow movement when I bench pressed did help a little.

I'm sure it matters, but I actually bowled for 10 years from age 5 to 15, and I haven't experienced any pain or discomfort in my right shoulder or right elbow, I think bowling that much while I was young developed the connective tissue in my right arm well.

For the time being I've been doing alternating DB curls in place of overhead press and bench press. Really the only thing I can think to do right now other than seeing some specialist to figure out exactly what the problem is, is developing my biceps because I think the problem is at least partially attributable to a very weak left bicep. I'll do this for maybe 2-3 weeks, then start low on the OHP and bench press and see what happens. I don't believe in taking ibuprofen or anything like that to reduce the pain. If I'm hurting, my body is telling me something is wrong and I don't want to ignore it or make it disappear.

I'd recommend seeing a physio first and foremost to obtain an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management and rehab.

If biceps work is currently aggravating it, more biceps work won't solve it either. If the pain arises from a loaded extension of the elbow during pressing movements (but not in a tricep extension) it may reflect something with the joint peoper or ligaments. The tingling in your forearm and hand is a strong indication of at least nerve aggravation / impingement.

More work will not solve this problem. Rest, ice / heat, perhaps some massage and  time to heal are what you need. Continuing to workout in this fashion will only exacerbate the current problem. See a physio.

I knew you were gonna tell me rest. The one thing I don't want to do, but I guess I should...

How much time should I take off? Can I at least do cardio and stretching and foam rolling in the meantime?

I can't really afford to see a physical therapist, unless there's one I can see that won't charge for an evaluation, or perhaps just charge for an evaluation but no treatment. I just need to know what the problem is exactly... I can figure out from there what I need to do.

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