What to Know About Elbow Pain When Lifting

What to Know About Elbow Pain When Lifting

Elbow pain can occur for a variety of reasons, including when lifting objects. For example, repetitive strain injuries can result from repeatedly lifting heavy objects.

Elbow pain can also occur due to an acute injury. Lifting heavy objects, especially unusually heavy objects, can cause acute injury.

This article explores some potential causes of elbow pain when lifting heavy weights. It also looks at some treatment options and when a person should contact a doctor.

Causes of Elbow Pain When Lifting Weights

There are many reasons why a person may experience elbow pain when lifting objects.

Research shows that repetitive motion and excessive weight are common causes of upper extremity strain. Injuries, illness, and certain habits are all potential causes of elbow pain when lifting weights.

Sometimes, the cause can be something that went unnoticed at the time. The sooner a person resolves the pain, the better, as it can worsen and become more difficult to treat.

Can You Get Tennis Elbow From Weightlifting?

Some common causes of elbow pain when lifting heavy weights include the following.

tennis elbow

If a person experiences pain when lifting objects, they may have tennis elbow. Another name is lateral epicondylitis.

This condition occurs when the tendons around the elbow bones are torn or swollen. If a person experiences pain when performing everyday movements such as twisting, grasping, or lifting weights, they may have tennis elbow.

Research has shown that risk factors for tennis elbow include repeated elbow use and tobacco use.

Some symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • Pain on the outside of the elbow
  • severe pain
  • swelling

Symptoms may worsen without treatment. This happens when repetitive movements cause joints and tendons to swell.

Tennis elbow seems to be most commonTrusted Source in people aged 30-50, but it can occur at any age.

Tennis players are one category susceptible to this condition. People in certain other occupations, such as architecture and painting, also use repetitive movements that can cause the same stress.

trapped nerve

"Nerve compression" and "nerve entrapment" are other ways to describe trapped nerves. Pressure on the tissues around the elbow can cause the nerve to become trapped.

Some general symptoms of a trapped nerve include:

  • tingling
  • Arm, wrist, or hand weakness
  • numbness

Different types of trapped nerves may develop in the elbow area. If a person's nerves are trapped, symptoms may vary depending on the type of nerve they have. It is important for a person to identify the source of pain.

cubital tunnel syndrome

This happens when the ulnar nerve is compressed or irritated. Repeated strains of the elbow or trauma to this area can cause irritation of the ulnar nerve.

Symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include numbness and tingling.

pronator teres syndrome

This happens when the median nerve becomes trapped by the pronator teres, a muscle located on the front of the forearm.

Symptoms of pronator teres syndrome include pain in the forearm, wrist, or hand.

posterior interosseous nerve syndrome

This happens when a branch of the radial nerve becomes trapped near the outside of the elbow.

Symptoms of posterior interosseous nerve syndrome include wrist and finger weakness. Tennis elbow has similar symptoms.

Dislocated elbow

Elbow dislocation occurs when the upper arm or humerus separates from or is forced out of alignment with the forearm bones (called the radius and ulna).

One possible cause of a dislocated elbow is a fall or accident, where the arm "buffers the blow." This happens when a person uses their arms to protect the body from further injury. People sometimes do this instinctively.

Some symptoms of a dislocated elbow include:

  • loss of feeling in the area
  • Inability to move wrist, fingers, or hands
  • inability to twist or bend the elbow
  • decreased wrist pulse
  • elbow fracture

Elbow fractures can occur when part of the humerus, radius, or ulna near the elbow breaks. Elbow fractures usually occur when a person collides with an object at high speed.

Elbow fractures are the most commonTrusted Source fractures in the pediatric population.

Some symptoms of an elbow fracture include:

  • swelling or bruising
  • rigidity
  • Clicking sound when injured
  • Elbow clearly out of place
  • Numbness in the arm, wrist, or hand
  • Arm, wrist, or hand weakness
  • persistent pain

Two types of fractures can occur in the elbow area: open fractures and closed fractures.

An open fracture occurs when a bone breaks and pierces the skin. This is serious and requires immediate medical attention. Often, surgery is the only option. Also, wearing a cast or bandage during healing prevents movement.

A closed fracture occurs when the bone breaks without piercing the skin. This may be a "complete fracture", or the bone may break into many pieces. Treatment depends on the severity of the rest.

Although symptoms are similar, fractures are not the same as elbow dislocations. A joint dislocation may damage surrounding nerves and blood vessels more easily than a fracture.

Do you have elbow pain when lifting weights?


There are different types of arthritis that can affect the elbow. Two of these are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain. Over time, this condition can lead to joint damage.

Osteoarthritis affects the cartilage at the ends of bones. The loss of cartilage causes bones to rub against each other. Over time, elbow injuries can manifest as arthritis.

Some symptoms of elbow arthritis may include:

  • Pain usually increases when a person bends or straightens the elbow
  • rigidity
  • the ability to move the elbow in a specific direction or pain while doing so

Learn about home remedies for arthritis here.


Taking any of the following steps can help relieve elbow pain at home:

  • Stop lifting weights: Pain is the body's way of telling a person to stop before symptoms worsen.
  • Take over-the-counter medications: Options such as ibuprofen and aspirin can reduce swelling and prevent pain. These are all available over the counter.
  • Ice: When a person applies ice for a short period of time, such as 15 minutes, ice can reduce swelling and limit pain.
  • Wear elbow pads: There is a support mechanism to take some of the pressure off your elbows.
  • Steroid injections may help treat chronic pain due to repetitive strain injury that does not respond to other treatments.

In some cases, such as a broken bone, surgery may be needed to repair the broken bone or damaged tissue.

Learn more about exercises to relieve elbow pain here.

When to contact a doctor

When experiencing elbow pain, there are some treatments that people can try at home.

However, if pain, swelling, or inability to move persists, it is important to consult a doctor. It is also important to consult a doctor if the elbow is deformed.

It is vital that a person speaks to a doctor if the pain persists. Quickly identifying the problem may reduce the chance of complications.

What forms the elbow?

The elbow is a complex part of the body formed between three bones:

  • humerus (upper arm bone)
  • Ulna (forearm)
  • Radius (forearm)

A combination of cartilage, tendons, and ligaments surround these bones. Cartilage covers bone to relieve compressive pressure and allow fluid joint movement. Tendons connect bones to surrounding muscles. Ligaments connect bones to other bones.


The elbow is a complex part of the body that allows people to lift, throw, grasp, and twist the arm. People may experience different forms of pain in this area when they lift weights.

People can try stretching and mobility exercises to prevent pain and injury.

If a person experiences pain when lifting, they should stop to prevent further injury.

Although immediate remedies can be tried at home, if pain persists, a doctor should be consulted.

Because the elbow area involves many parts, there are many possible causes of pain. Both the location of the elbow and the severity of the pain affecting it determine the type of treatment a person will receive.

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