Elbow Pain When Lifting: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Elbow Pain When Lifting

Elbow pain when lifting weights is a common complaint among fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike. It can be a result of various factors, including muscle imbalances, overuse injuries, and poor lifting technique.

Understanding the causes, prevention strategies, and treatment options for elbow pain from lifting is crucial for ensuring a safe and effective strength training routine. This article will delve into the topic, providing valuable insights and practical advice for managing and preventing this issue.

Causes of Elbow Pain When Lifting

Muscle Imbalances

One of the leading causes of elbow pain from lifting weights is muscle imbalances. This can occur between the forearm muscles, such as in tennis elbow, or between the upper arm muscles, including the biceps and triceps.

Imbalance between forearm muscles: Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is characterized by inflammation of the tendons that attach to the outer part of the elbow. It is often caused by an imbalance between the forearm extensor and flexor muscles. Strengthening the extensor muscles and improving grip strength can help alleviate this condition.

Imbalance between upper arm muscles: Lifting weights with inadequate attention to balancing biceps and triceps can lead to imbalances and subsequent pain. Strengthening the weaker muscle group and maintaining equal focus on both biceps and triceps exercises can help prevent overuse injuries.

Overuse and Repetitive Strain Injuries

Elbow pain can also result from overuse and repetitive strain injuries.

Tendonitis of the elbow: Overuse of the elbow joint, such as performing repetitive motions like bicep curls or triceps extensions with excessive weight, can lead to tendonitis. This condition causes inflammation of the tendons, resulting in pain and discomfort.

Tennis or golfer's elbow: Also known as medial epicondylitis, golfer's elbow is characterized by pain on the inner part of the elbow. It is often caused by repetitive gripping or twisting motions, common in many weightlifting exercises. Tennis elbow, on the other hand, affects the outer part of the elbow and is caused by repetitive wrist extension. Strengthening the affected tendons and modifying lifting technique can help alleviate these conditions.

Poor Lifting Technique

Incorrect lifting technique can put excessive stress on the elbow joint, leading to pain and injury.

Incorrect grip and positioning: Using an incorrect grip or positioning during weightlifting exercises can strain the elbow joint and surrounding muscles. It is important to maintain proper form and alignment to minimize the risk of injury.

Inadequate warm-up or stretching routine: Neglecting to properly warm up and stretch before lifting weights can contribute to elbow pain. Wrist and forearm stretches, as well as elbow mobilization exercises, should be incorporated into the warm-up routine to enhance flexibility and range of motion.

Prevention and Management Strategies

Proper Lifting Technique

Maintaining proper form and alignment while lifting weights can significantly reduce the risk of elbow pain.

Maintaining proper form and alignment: This includes keeping the wrist straight, maintaining a neutral grip, and avoiding excessive bending or extending of the elbow joint. Proper alignment in each exercise is essential.

Engaging the correct muscle groups throughout the lift: Focusing on targeting the intended muscle groups while lifting weights can help prevent overloading the elbow joint and prevent overuse injuries.

Warm-up and Mobility Exercises

Incorporating specific warm-up and mobility exercises can prepare the elbow joint and surrounding muscles for the demands of weightlifting.

Wrist and forearm stretches: Performing wrist and forearm stretches, such as wrist curls, can increase flexibility and reduce the risk of strain.

Elbow mobilization exercises: These exercises help to improve range of motion in the elbow joint, reducing stiffness and the chances of injuries.

Building hip and ankle mobility: Hip and ankle mobility exercises improve overall movement mechanics and prevent compensations that can put stress on the elbow joint.

Strengthening and Conditioning: Incorporating exercises that target the forearm and upper arm muscles can help prevent imbalances and injuries.

Strengthening forearm and upper arm muscles: Lifting weights that challenge the forearm and upper arm muscles in a controlled manner provides strength and conditioning, reducing the risk of muscle imbalances.

Gradually increasing weights and intensity: Gradual increments in weights and intensity allow the body to adapt and reduce the chances of overuse injuries.

Rest and Recovery

Allowing the body adequate time to recuperate and repair is essential for preventing and managing elbow pain.

Allowing adequate rest time: Scheduling rest days between strength training sessions gives muscles and tendons time to recover and rebuild.

Alternating muscle groups and exercises: Varying exercises and muscle groups can prevent excessive strain on the elbow joint and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

Seeking Professional Help

Consultation with a Physical Therapist or Sports Medicine Specialist: Seeking professional guidance can provide an individualized assessment and treatment plan.

Evaluation of current lifting routine and form: A physical therapist or sports medicine specialist can evaluate lifting technique and provide recommendations for improving form and minimizing strain on the elbow joint.

Development of a personalized exercise program and treatment plan: Professionals can develop a tailored exercise program that targets individual weaknesses, allowing for a safe and effective strength training routine.

Use of Elbow Sleeves and Elbow Wraps:

When experiencing pain in elbow when lifting, the use of elbow sleeves and elbow wraps can provide significant relief. Elbow sleeves are snug and supportive garments that are worn around the elbow joint, providing compression and stability.

They can help alleviate pain caused by conditions such as tennis elbow, golfers elbow, biceps tendonitis, and triceps tendonitis. Elbow sleeves work by increasing blood flow to the area, reducing inflammation, and providing warmth, which can ease chronic pain and promote healing.

Elbow wraps, on the other hand, are versatile and adjustable straps that can be used to provide targeted compression and support to the elbow tendon and forearm muscles. They can be especially beneficial for lifters experiencing inner elbow pain or lateral elbow pain.

By applying pressure to the affected area, elbow wraps can help relieve strain and stress on the tendons, reduce pain, and enhance grip strength during lifting exercises. Additionally, elbow wraps can be used during physical therapy or sports medicine treatments for elbow injuries, such as tendonitis or olecranon bursitis.

They provide stability to the elbow joint and promote proper alignment, preventing further injury and aiding in the healing process.Overall, the use of elbow sleeves and elbow wraps can be vital in managing elbow pain when lifting weights or engaging in repetitive motions.

They offer targeted support and compression to the elbow tendons and muscles, reducing strain and inflammation. By providing stability and promoting blood flow, these tools can alleviate chronic pain and enhance grip strength, allowing individuals to continue their exercise routines and rehabilitate their elbow problems effectively.

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation:

Physical therapy modalities and guided exercise programs can accelerate healing and improve strength and joint stability.

Utilizing various modalities: Modalities such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation can help reduce pain and inflammation while promoting healing in the elbow joint

Guided exercise programs: Physical therapists can design guided exercise programs that address specific weaknesses and imbalances, promoting overall elbow health.


Elbow pain can significantly impact one's strength training routine. By implementing proper lifting techniques, incorporating mobility exercises, and seeking appropriate medical attention, individuals can minimize and effectively manage the pain.

It is crucial to address specific weaknesses and imbalances to prevent long-term chronic pain and optimize overall performance. Remember to seek professional guidance for persistent or severe elbow pain. By taking proactive steps and adopting a comprehensive approach to prevention and treatment, individuals can promote a safer and more enjoyable strength training experience.