Easy Ways to Prevent and Treat Elbow Issues

I see a decent amount of elbow pain in the clinic.  I see quite a bit of medial (inside) elbow pain mostly from a lot of false grip and rope climb work.  This area tends to flair-up with a lot of gripping with the elbow in a flexed position (hence the false grip as a culprit).  I also see pain on the opposite side of the elbow (lateral or outside).  This can also be flaired up with gripping but usually with the wrist in an extended position.  I tend to see more issues on this side of the elbow during olympic lifts.  Lastly, I also see posterior (back side) elbow pain that flairs up with a lot of pressing, especially dips.  Either one of these issues usually comes about from too much total volume or a sudden increase in volume (Say someone is learning to muscle-up and starts attacking more false grip work).

As with most injuries a period of time is needed where the offending movements are removed or modified in training to allow these areas to calm down.  Once they calm down we’ll want to slowly start loading them back up.  One of my favorite ways to do this is through good old curls and triceps extensions.  I like to perform these 3-5 x per week for 2-3 sets to help build the elbows back up until symptoms dissipate.  Then you can adjust back to a maintenance dosage or proper programming.

Are Curls Just for the Girls? One thing I encounter frequently is elbow pain. People get painful lateral elbow pain from all the gripping and Olympic lifting. People get medial elbow pain from all of the pull-ups, rope climbs and false grip work. I see posterior elbow pain from high volume pressing and dips. It's definitely an issue that limits performance and ails people. As a community we've gotten obsessive about compound movements at the expense of neglecting some of the smaller players in the arm. I like putting some arm care work into my programming once per week to build some ability to handle the forces in the elbow. It also makes up a big part of my rehab program for these folks as they're getting out of pain and back to training. Lastly, don't neglect the larger players like the upper back musculature, lats, shoulders and pecs. Injecting more strict work into your programming in general can go a long way in building healthy and injury resistant elbows. @powermonkeyfitness @shift_movementscience @themovementfix @modernmanualtherapy @barbellrehab @thebarbellphysio @jsshane #twitter #crossfit #gunshow #physicaltherapy @clinicalathlete

A video posted by Daniel Pope (@fitnesspainfree) on

Also, make sure you don’t neglect wrist, shoulder and thoracic spine range of motion as well as strengthening some of the larger upper back muscles.  These are all important players.  When reintroducing more challenging motions, this should occur slowly with careful attention to pain levels both during exercise and the following day and night as a gauge for progress

As coaches and athletes I think we’ve gotten so excited about compound movements in our programming that I think we neglect some of the smaller movements and muscles.  I like to program in some elbow flexion and extension (bicep and tricep work) work into my programming atleast once per week and more often in those that are a bit more susceptible to elbow pain.  This way we build strong and resilient elbows so we don’t have to dread that next rope climb workout coming up next week.  Make sure you don’t add in too much elbow intensive work at any given time but rather to slowly build into these movements and not to overdo it with volume.

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If you’d like to see how I use exercises like these to reduce injury risk in my training program click this link.

Bulletproof Those Elbows,

Dan Pope DPT, OCS, CSCS, CF-L1

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