One of the most common areas of pain we see in functional fitness / CrossFit athletes is medial elbow pain often referred to as golfer’s elbow. This condition can make gymnastics movements such as pull-ups, muscle ups, and toes to bar painful. And when even more irritable barbell based movements can become difficult as grip strength and pain is altered. So why does this happen and what can be done for it?
Why Is CrossFit Elbow Pain So Common?
We see CrossFit related elbow pain commonly because of two main reasons: training volume issues and lat weakness. From a training volume perspective we will typically see people that simply asked too much of their arm muscles and eventually they became irritated. At times this is in athletes that are new to the sport and in their first few months are exposed to new movements and more loading than their body is used to. More frequently we see these issues pop up as athletes begin to spend more time working on higher level skills. Maybe they are just starting to work on their muscle-ups so they come into the gym ten minutes early every day to work on drills. That extra work adds up over a few weeks and if the medial elbow muscles can’t fully recover they can become painful.
A second cause we will commonly see is athletes who have lat weakness. When the lats are weak we’ll see individuals who perform gymnastics based movements with a more arm dominant strategy as shown in the following video.
What Can Be Done to Treat CrossFit Elbow Pain?
Treating CrossFit elbow pain is a 3-step process. First, we want to calm the irritated tissues down. What can we alter in your training program to allow you to continue exercising at a high level but not to the point where these irritated tissues continue to get flared up. This may mean decreasing volume slightly or altering movements.
Second step is to strengthen the irritated tendons so that long term they are able to handle more training volume and more intense exercises.
Third step is to strengthen the muscles around the medial elbow. Typically as mentioned above we’ll be attacking lat weakness with exercises such as straight arm band pulldowns to isolate the lats.
Need More Intensive Help?
If you’re stuck with elbow pain that hasn’t responded to your self-treatments or other medical procedures then we’d love to get you on the road to recovery. See our schedule to book an appointment today!