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I started working out again (including a bit of light-to-moderate weightlifting) after several years away from the activity.

The next morning, I had the typical expected soreness… except around my right elbow. The muscles local to the joint are pretty stiff and sore. There may be a bit of swelling (hard to tell, but nothing major) but it is definitely uncomfortable to extend the elbow completely.

Should I be working to stretch this area out throughout the day, or is it better to leave the arm in a relaxed position until normal movement is no longer uncomfortable?

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1 Answer 1

If the pain is in the joint, it is likely to be an inflammation based problem known as tendinitis. Tendinitis happens when you have bad form, inadequate warmup, poor equipment, and/or unbalanced work. There is likely some swelling, even if it's not visible on the surface.

For the most immediate relief, the protocol I use is:

  • Compress the joint--should restrict but not constrict blood flow (if your fingers turn white it's too tight)
  • Move the joint without weight through the full range of motion without acute pain repeatedly
  • Remove compression

The purpose of this exercise is to get blood to flow through the joint and flush out the inflammation. It should greatly relieve the pain you have if not eliminate it; however, if you keep the same routine it will come back.

Since you've had a bit of a layoff, your joints are probably not accustomed to the work you have them doing yet. Examine your routine and make the appropriate changes:

  • Are you using movements relying on the joint to stop weight? An example would be a laying triceps extension. I recommend choosing a different exercise if that is the case.
  • Are you pushing and pulling with the joint? The muscles around the joint need to be strengthened in a balanced manner. If you do a lot of triceps work, the add in biceps work.
  • Are your muscles sufficiently warm before you put load on them? Use light weights and higher reps to get blood flowing before working up to the main weight you plan to use.
  • Is the equipment to blame? Certain movements require your barbell or dumbbell to let the handle rotate while the weight does not (this is why barbells have rotating collars). If the collars don't rotate freely, it could be the weight rotating that's adding more force to the joint that you don't want.
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This all rings true. I have enough background/experience to rule out poor equipment or egregiously bad form. I'm going to chalk it up to unbalanced work; pushing and pulling too much with the joint before I built up sufficient muscle strength to support it. I'll try the protocol and slow way down on my ramp-up time. Thanks. –  Robert Cartaino Sep 26 '13 at 16:03
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