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Elbow Pain from Lifting: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Elbow Pain from Lifting: Causes, Treatment and Prevention


Elbow pain is a frequent concern among weightlifters, significantly impacting their training regimes and everyday activities. Elbow pain from lifting can arise from various factors, including overuse, improper lifting techniques, and specific conditions such as lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and medial epicondylitis.

Understanding the causes, exploring treatment options, and implementing preventive measures are crucial steps in managing this issue, ensuring a healthy lifting routine, and maintaining the primary functions of the elbow in daily living.

Why Do Weightlifters Get Elbow Pain?

Weightlifting, characterized by repetitive movements and the lifting of heavy weights, inherently places considerable stress on the elbow tendons and joints. These repetitive elbow movements can lead to overuse injuries, contributing to medical conditions such as tennis elbow, where the pain is concentrated on the outer elbow, and golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis), affecting the inner aspect of the joint.

Elbow pain from lifting is particularly common among individuals aged 30–50 years, although it can affect people of any age. This condition is notably prevalent among tennis players and those whose professions or activities involve repetitive movements, underscoring the importance of understanding and addressing the risk factors across different age groups and lifestyles.

This condition results from the muscles and tendons of the forearm being strained through their attachment to the bone, often exacerbated by poor form during physical activity.

Common Causes of Elbow Pain in Weightlifting

Common Causes of Elbow Pain in Weightlifting

Trapped Nerves

Repetitive strain from lifting can lead to trapped nerves around the elbow, manifesting in several specific syndromes:

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

This condition results from pressure on the ulnar nerve at the elbow, causing symptoms that affect the forearm and hand.

Pronator Teres Syndrome

Compression of the median nerve in the forearm leads to pain and tenderness, often exacerbated by repetitive movements.

Posterior Interosseous Nerve Syndrome

This syndrome is characterized by nerve compression in the forearm, impacting the ability to extend the wrist and fingers, leading to elbow pain.

Dislocated Elbow

A dislocation of the elbow involves the bones being forced out of their normal alignment, resulting in immediate, severe pain and a significant elbow injury.

Fractured Elbow

Elbow fractures can cause sharp pain, swelling, and reduced mobility, often requiring months of rest for the natural healing process to restore full function.

Muscle Tightness

The forearm muscles, crucial for gripping and lifting, can become tight and painful, impacting strength training exercises and daily routine.

Magnesium Deficiency

A magnesium deficiency can exacerbate muscle tightness and cramps, contributing to elbow pain among weightlifters.

Overuse and Repetitive Stress

Conditions such as lateral and medial epicondylitis arise from overuse and repetitive stress, leading to inflammation and pain in the elbow tendons. Intense weightlifting sessions, especially without allowing adequate time for rest and recovery, can lead to microtrauma in the muscles and tendons surrounding the elbow. This cumulative damage is a primary cause of the pain and inflammation experienced by many lifters.


Joint pain, including in the elbow, can also result from arthritis, affecting the elbow’s soft tissues and resulting in chronic pain.

Can I Continue to Lift with Elbow Pain?

The decision to continue lifting with elbow pain should be approached with caution. While some types of pain might allow for a continuation of exercise, incorporating modifications and proper form, significant discomfort, particularly signs of tennis elbow or other severe injuries, necessitates rest and consultation with a medical professional.

Elbow Pain Treatment and Prevention

Elbow Pain Treatment and Prevention


To discover how to relieve elbow pain from lifting, Kendall Performance Physical Therapy recommends starting with ice packs to reduce inflammation immediately after injury. Following this, specific elbow pain exercises tailored to strengthen and stretch the affected area can provide long-term relief and prevent recurrence.

Kendall Performance Physical Therapy and other sports medicine facilities offer a wide range of treatments for elbow pain from weight lifting, including conservative treatments like ice packs to reduce inflammation and exercises to improve blood flow and strengthen the forearm muscles. In cases of chronic injury or tendon damage, more invasive options like steroid injections, cortisone injections, or even tennis elbow surgery might be considered.

If you need physical therapy in Kenmore, contact us today at Kendall Performance Physical Therapy.


Among the most effective prevention strategies for lifting injuries are targeted elbow pain exercises. These exercises focus on strengthening the forearm muscles, enhancing flexibility, and improving blood flow to the area, significantly reducing the risk of elbow pain from lifting. Incorporating a routine of light stretching and strengthening exercises can fortify the elbow against the stresses of lifting.

Avoid repetitive actions

Modifying exercises to limit repetitive strain injury is crucial for preventing conditions like tennis elbow.

Strengthening exercises

Engaging in strength training exercises for the arm muscles, using light weights and resistance bands, can bolster the elbow’s resilience.

Avoid overuse

Adhering to a balanced training schedule that avoids excessive weights and promotes rest periods is essential for maintaining elbow health.

Maintain strong muscles

Strengthening and stretching the forearm, upper arm bone, and triceps muscle through gentle stretching exercises can support elbow function.

Proper Technique

Ensuring proper form during all physical activities helps minimize stress on the elbow joint and prevents the development of scar tissue from repeated injuries.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Medical attention should be sought if elbow pain persists despite conservative treatments, if there are symptoms of nerve damage, or if the ability to perform daily activities is compromised. Diagnoses such as through Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can offer insights into the extent of the damage and guide the treatment plan.


By understanding the common causes of elbow pain and implementing effective treatment and prevention strategies, weightlifters can protect their elbows, ensuring the continuation of their training and the performance of daily routines without undue discomfort or injury.


How do I stop my elbow from hurting after lifting?

Applying cold compresses, engaging in gentle stretching exercises, and using elbow braces can help manage immediate pain while adjusting your level of activity, and incorporating rest periods can prevent future issues.

How do I protect my elbows when lifting?

Employing proper lifting techniques, using appropriate sports equipment, and incorporating exercises that strengthen the forearm tendons are key strategies for elbow protection.

Should I keep lifting with elbow pain?

While minor discomfort might not require stopping your training entirely, it’s important to assess the type of pain and consider activity modification or consulting with a sports medicine professional or healthcare provider to prevent exacerbating the condition.

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Dr. Christopher Kendall PT

Kendall Performance PT

We help athletes and active adults move better, live pain-free, and get stronger to improve the health of our community and provide each client the knowledge to remain healthy and independent the rest of their lives.