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Exercise in any form puts pressure on your body, particularly your joints. Your elbow joints are constantly in use during a physical workout, especially in racket sports that require a swinging motion. Sore elbows are common in sports, but are manageable through lifestyle adjustments and medical treatment.
Overuse injuries and improper technique in sports, such as tennis, golf, baseball and softball, are among the causes of exercise-induced sore elbows. Your elbows are supported by tendons and ligaments, and are cushioned by fluid-filled sacs called bursae. Inflammation of these structures caused by simply too much use or holding your arm the wrong way during sports can cause a variety of conditions. Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, and golfer's elbow, or medial epicondylitis, are common sports injuries involving the elbow. Tendinitis and bursitis are additional inflammatory conditions that can affect any joint, including the elbows.
Symptoms vary depending on your exact condition, but most people with sore elbows experience pain and tenderness during movement. You are more likey to experience symptoms of tennis elbow and golfer's elbow while trying to make a fist, shake someone's hand or grasp everyday objects. Pain, weakness and stiffness in the joint may extend into the forearm and fingers while at rest too. Tennis elbow affects the outside of your elbow, while golfer's elbow hurts more on the inside of the joint. Bursitis symptoms can include tenderness and warmth around the joint.
Rest, ice and stretching are the courses of treatment for more exercise-induced elbow injuries. Cut back on your physical activity as much as you need to while symptoms are intense. Ice the affected area to reduce inflammation and pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen, are affective treatment methods as well. Once the pain has receded, stretching can help you regain range of motion. Elbow flexion and extension are simple exercises to do at home that gentle stretch the muscles, ligaments and tendons around your elbow. Start with your hands folded in your lap, with fingers interlocked. Straighten your elbows out, then slowly bend your elbows to bring your hands up toward your face. Then, extend your elbows once again to complete one repetition.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a brace for you to use while you play golf, tennis or other sports that affect your elbows. Braces support the muscles around your joints until you are stronger. Surgical repair of damaged tissue may be required in severe cases of tendinitis or bursitis.
Incorporating downtime into your exercise routine can prevent sore elbows. Give yourself a day of rest in between weight-training sessions to let your upper body recover. Restricting the number of pitches you throw or tennis balls you lob can also be a preventative measure for elbow pain. Learning proper technique is an important factor in preventing elbow injuries. Discuss with your coach the correct way to putt, throw or execute a backhand stroke to avoid hurting yourself. Many times, keeping your wrist rigid is the key to preventing elbow strain.
Strengthening your forearm muscles may also keep your elbows from becoming sore. Squeeze a tennis ball or hand weight in the palm of your hand, performing as many repetitions as you can. Your arm is more able to absorb the force of exercise without injury when you have strong muscles.