Elbow hyperextension occurs when your elbow is extended past its normal range of 140 degrees, causing damage to the ligaments. This can result in pain, swelling, stiffness and inflammation. This is a common injury during heavy biceps workouts, as excessive weight loads can push the elbow past its limit. Learn to first recognize the symptoms of hyperextension, then treat the injury before it gets worse.
Check for symptoms. Often a hyperextended elbow will not manifest immediately, and you may not feel pain or restriction in movement until after your weightlifting session is over. Early symptoms include pain, redness, heat, swelling or bruising in the middle of the front of your elbow. Other symptoms include a restricted range of motion, pain when extending or straightening the elbow, limited arm strength or muscle spasms in the biceps.
Rest the elbow. Avoid aggravating the injury further by resting it, applying an icepack to reduce the pain and swelling. Normally the pain will subside after a few days as the ligaments in your elbow start healing.
If rest does not work, other treatments are available. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen can help manage the pain. Wearing an arm sling can help immobilize the elbow until the healing process takes hold.
Restore your range of motion with exercises designed to stretch and strengthen the connective tissues in your elbow. Exercises that gently require you to contract and release your biceps by flexing the elbow should be used as your rebuild your strength and flexibility. One example of an elbow-strengthening biceps exercise is the resistance band biceps curl, in which you put your biceps through its range of motion against the steady pull of an elastic resistance cable. Begin in a standing position holding one end of a resistance band, with the other end of the band wrapped around your foot. Your elbow should be fully extended, your palm facing forwards and your back straight. Lift the band up by bending at the elbow, pulling against the resistance in the band. Keep your upper arm and shoulder immobile as you raise your hand to isolate the biceps. Raise your hand to the front of your shoulder if possible, then slowly lower it back to its original position. Stop the motion if you feel pain at any part of the exercise and consult your doctor, who may recommend gentler rehabilitation options.
- Hyperextension is usually made worse when the muscles surrounding the joint are tense when the injury occurs. If your elbow was overextended during a biceps workout, the damage may need more than just rest and an icepack. Consult your doctor or physical therapist if the pain persists after a few days. In rare cases, surgery may be needed to repair the damage to the biceps ligament at the front of the elbow.
Todd Maternowski began writing in 1996 as one of the co-founders of "The Chicago Criterion." He joined the local online news revolutionaries at Pegasus News in 2006, where he continues to work to this day. He studied religion at the University of Chicago.