Professional and recreational athletes lift weights to build strength, tone muscles and maintain bone density. Improper technique, lifting weight that is too heavy or inadequate amounts of recovery time can cause injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments. Golfer's elbow -- or medial epicondylitis -- is often associated with golfing activities; however, it can also develop from weightlifting exercises.
Golfer's elbow is an injury to tendons at the inside of the elbow. Muscles that bend your wrist forward and bend your fingers come together at the common flexor tendon, connecting these muscles to the upper arm bone. Golfer's elbow is caused by overuse of your wrist and finger-bending muscles, prolonged gripping during weightlifting exercises, and using weight that is too heavy. For example, biceps curls, which target the muscles that bend your elbow, can lead to golfer's elbow if the weight is too heavy. As you bend your elbow with the heavy weight in your hand, the muscles that bend your wrist will also kick in, putting tension on the tendons on the inside of your elbow.
Golfer's elbow is frequently caused by improper wrist positioning during weightlifting exercises. Wrist flexion -- bending your wrist forward -- puts strain on the tendons on the inside of your elbow. Keep your wrist straight -- in a neutral position -- while lifting weights to reduce risk of injury to these tendons. For extra support, wear weightlifting wrist braces to maintain proper positioning and reduce risk of injury.
Overuse of your wrist and finger-bending muscles can cause golfer's elbow. Alternate upper-body weightlifting exercises -- prolonged gripping -- with other exercises to avoid overuse of these muscles. Stretch your forearm muscles frequently during your workouts to decrease muscle tension and risk of injury. Straighten your right elbow, hold your arm out in front of you with your palm facing the ceiling. Put your left hand on the palm of your right hand and gently bend your right wrist backward toward the floor. Stop when you feel a stretch -- but no pain -- along your forearm and the inside of your elbow. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times.
Golfer's elbow can often be treated with home remedies, particularly when the symptoms are addressed quickly. Reduce the amount of weight you lift, or temporarily avoid exercises that cause pain in your elbow. Wear a forearm strap during exercise to reduce tension through your forearm muscles and the tendons that connect them to your elbow. Stretch your forearm muscles and apply ice to the inside of your elbow for 15 to 20 minutes after weightlifting activities. Seek medical attention if you develop numbness or tingling in your forearm or hand, pain in your elbow during normal daily activities or weakness in your grip.
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.