Weightlifter’s Elbow

Elbow pain can be caused by several sports and activities. There’s golfer’s elbow, tennis elbow and even bowler’s elbow, but this article is going to focus on weightlifter’s elbow.

What is weightlifter’s elbow?

This injury, formally known as triceps tendonitis, is an overuse injury that causes pain at elbow joint. This discomfort is caused by inflammation of the triceps tendon, the band that links the triceps muscle to the elbow joint. Overuse injuries occur from repetitive movements. When exercising, this can movements that put stress on the elbow and triceps, such as bench pressing, push-ups, dips and shoulder presses. Along with repetition, poor form, insufficient recovery time and using too much weight can also contribute to lifter’s elbow.


So what exactly does triceps tendonitis feel like?

  • Pain or burning in the elbow while exercising, ranging from mild to sharp pains.
  • Soreness or pain that lingers after your workout is over
  • Reduced grip strength when exercising
  • Tightness when attempting to bend or straighten the elbow.


Like most injuries, treatment depends on the severity of the injury. For mild cases that are caught early, the best course of action is rest, ice, wearing a compression sleeve and taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication for a week or two. If your elbow pain is more severe or if you’re not seeing noticeable improvement after a week of resting, it might be time to talk to a specialist.  

Generally, your hand or orthopedic surgeon will conduct a physical examination of the joint and will take an x-ray to ensure there isn’t something else going on. Assuming there is not another underlying issue, like a hairline fracture or a torn muscle or ligament, your doctor may have you resume conservative treatment, administer a steroid injection or may recommend physical therapy.

In severe cases or if all conservative measures are unsuccessful, tendon surgery may be necessary, followed by short course of PT to regain strength and stability in the elbow.

Avoiding Injury

While it is not always possible to avoid injuries, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk!

  • Stretch- loosening up your muscles before and after you work out is always a best practice. If you’re experiencing tightness in your elbow (triceps tendon), stretch the joints at, above (shoulder) and below (wrist) the elbow to increase mobility.
  • Massage- using a massage ball or a foam roller can help release your muscle or tissue stiffness, allowing the joint to move more freely.
  • Form- proper form while exercising is essential to avoiding injury and building muscle.
  • Take a break- everyone experiences soreness after a good lifting session, but if you start to experience lingering elbow pain or stiffness, particularly when attempting to bend or extend, it might your body telling you to give it a rest for a few days.  
The hand and orthopedic/sports medicine surgeons at Michigan Surgery Specialists are no strangers to all kinds of exercising injuries. If you’re experiencing joint or hand pain from your workout routine, it may be time to speak with one of our surgeons!
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