Most Common Muscle Elbow/Wrist Injury (Part 5 of 7)
By: Marylin Salgado
June 11, 2019
This is part 5 of a 7-part series blog. The focus will be injuries based on the 4 most popular weight lifting exercises:
- Bench Press
- Dead Lifts
- Military Press
Each blog will explain the part of the body affected, how each lift affects that muscle group and recovery time. Each blog will be written in its simplest form so you, the reader, can fully understand the material. This week I will be discussing injury caused to the Elbow/Wrist.
What is the structure and function of the Elbow/Wrist?
In very simple terms, the elbow is the joint that connects the upper arm to the forearm. The bones forming the elbow allow for extension and flexion of the forearm. The wrist joint marks the area of transition between the forearm and the hand. The wrist allows for extension, flexion, abduction and adduction of the hand.
Why do injuries occur?
- Improper technique
- Not enough training time
- Not stretching before an exercise
- Ignoring pain or discomfort during a movement or lift
- Not stopping immediately during discomfort or feeling sharp pain
- Changing directions rapidly
- Lifting beyond your weight limit
Most common lifts and Elbow/Wrist injury
- Squats – During a squat, the elbow up position and the wrist position will sure cause pressure on both joints. If you have poor flexibility and are squatting low bar, then your elbows might hurt after some time. If this happens, give your elbows some resting time. Unfortunately, the squats will have to wait. Some ways to avoid this is by using an open grip on the bar which helps the wrist stay straight. You can also use wrist wraps, which will help the wrist from extending excessively. Keep the elbows down to help keep pressure of the wrists. Perform high bar squats and definitely workout and train the biceps. Changing the bar might help, as well as performing a different type of squat until your elbow and wrist adjust to the squat you are trying to perform.
- Bench press – More than anything, with this movement, elbow and wrist injury or pain might result from overuse of the joint. Overuse injury happens in stages, from discomfort leaving the joint after a warm up, to pain and discomfort, to severe pain, where you are not able to lift at all. Some of these overuse symptoms are the following: swelling, redness, warmth to the touch, reduced elbow function and morning stiffness. Other causes of elbow pain include bursitis, joint dislocation, sprain, stress fracture and osteoarthritis. Although they are all different in category, they can still kill your lifting efforts. Keep in mind that lifting heavier, even if your body feels ok with it, is actually ok. Try some fewer reps over one to two weeks and see how you adjust. If no pain or discomfort, then add more reps and eventually increase the weights. A nasty injury can and will delay your progress.
- Dead Lifts – This lift is great for overall power lifting, building total body strength and mass. Like most other lifts, you will use your wrist and elbows. You can dead lift a dumbbell or a barbell. It’s about lifting a motionless weight from the floor. It’s about the weight, not exactly the piece of equipment. Some reasons why you might experience joint pain is from lifting too heavy, and therefore it is difficult to keep your arms straight. Because of the weight of the bar, as you are lowering the weight, you start losing grip. You lower the bar slower than required, putting extra strain on your elbows and wrists. You have been doing the lift too fast or too frequently, not allowing the joints to rest in between sets or workout days. Avoid this by keeping your feet 8 to 12 inches apart; hips down and squeeze chest up. Your spine should stay at a neutral position. A strong core is also essential for this lift.
- Military Press – This is the one lift where you can definitely hurt your elbows and wrists if not done correctly. The weight is mostly held by your arms, engaging the elbows and wrists when the weight is lowered to your chest. The one anatomy of the elbow you can hurt is the tendon. Proper technique and lifting with small weights as you progress is essential to prevent injury. Just like the dead lift, balance and rest period are important to avoid injury during this lift. You can follow the same reasons why you might suffer an injury with the Military Press as with the Dead Lifts.
Recovering from Injury
With most joint injuries, RICE is recommended. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Stop activity for a few days, take over the counter Tylenol or Ibuprofen, and if the injury is severe enough, stop all exercise and weigh lifting activities.
For severe cases or when at home remedies are not enough to heal a elbow/wrist injury, you may have to visit your PCP or you might be referred to an Orthopedist or Orthopedic Surgeon to review your case and further treat your injury. You might also need physical therapy during this time to speed the healing process.
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