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Healthy Elbows and Forearms: Loving Your Strong Forearm “Egg”

By: | Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 | Comments 12

Last time, we started to talk about the injuries and issues that can occur in and around the elbow and forearm. We introduced lateral epicondylitis, or “tennis elbow,” as one of the most prevalent overuse/repetitive strain pathologies here. This and other conditions of pain and tightness in the elbow can arise when performing certain exercises and activities including but not limited to tennis. As promised, now it is time to gain a better understanding of why you may be having elbow problems and what strategies may help you to work through them.

Maybe you do have elbow pain playing tennis, or golf (“golfers elbow” is medial epicondylitis). Or maybe you experience pain in the elbows doing bodyweight training like pull-ups or pushups or hand balancing exercises like the handstand. With injury conditions at the elbows, the specific aggravating activity isn’t necessarily the problem. More often it’s a case of improper technique and a poor adaptive capacity of the soft tissue for the chosen volume and intensity of activity. This simply indicates that some additional preparatory training and a slower progression of the main activities may be necessary to keep your elbows healthy and able to adapt appropriately.

To this end, it is important to remember that no body part or joint acts in isolation, and the elbows are certainly no exception. There is an important interrelationship between the elbows, the wrists, the shoulders, and the neck.

If your wrists aren’t strong or mobile enough to handle pressure from hand balancing exercises or pressing movements, the elbows, as the next link in the chain, will often take more strain than they should. Similarly, if you are unable to put your shoulders into proper position for a particular exercise due to lack of shoulder girdle strength and mobility, undue stress may be transferred to the elbows. And because the nerves that supply the arm are made up of nerve roots that stem from the neck, if you have impaired neck function causing decreased nerve conduction, you may experience pain, discomfort, and decreased strength in any part of the arm, including the elbow. If you’ve struggled with elbow issues, working on improving your strength and mobility in these other joints might be a big part of the answer.
At the wrists, strengthening the actions of flexion, extension, and rotation (supination and pronation), along with strengthening your grip, will do a lot to precondition your elbows and increase their activity tolerance. Check out these exercises from the Boston Sports Medicine and Research Institute.

Shoulder Flossing  is a great exercise for working shoulder mobility. Try using a towel or a blanket instead of a small strap. The added bulk will challenge your grip strength and wrist stability.

Matador Circles holding a blanket with wrists pronated will further strengthen your ability to keep your wrists strong in a neutral position (not breaking into flexion under weight) while also working shoulder strength and mobility.

Take the bull by the horns with some matador circles.

To address problems with nerve conduction through the arm, here’s a good description and video from Physical Therapist “Doctor Jo” for  neural flossing or nerve stretching.

And, finally, take a Pranic Bath to explore range of motion in the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. This move will stretch and strengthen muscles all along the chain from the shoulders to the hands.
These are just a few ways to prepare your elbows to work through current issues or avoid future ones. Practicing these exercises and techniques often just might help support your elbows and keep them healthy.

Liked this article? Read Not Tennis Elbow, but Tennis Wrists

About This Author

Mandy is a Yoga Tune Up® and Roll Model® Method superfan, so much so that she went ahead and completed certifications in each. She has spent most of her life in school pursuing science and engineering-related degrees while mixing in a variety of extracurricular fun with team sports and individual endurance sports. With this life-long background in academics and athletics, and a continued fascination with the human body, self massage, and healthy movement, Mandy is poised to help endurance junkies and stressed out academics alike experience the benefits of regular self-care and conscious movement practices.

Healthy Elbows and Forearms: Loving Your Strong Forearm “Egg”

  1. Angela Yonkovich says:

    Mandy-Thank you, Thank you for this article! My husband’s elbow has been bothering him so I recommended he roll his neck and shoulders. He has a significant anterior head carriage (I think from his days in the military) tight shoulders and lifts weights. My effort to convince him paid off and your article definitely helped…at this moment he is a happy camper with his head propped on the balls!

  2. David says:

    I’ve had a client who has been dealing with tennis elbow for months! We’ve tried so many different exercise and rest techniques and nothing seems to be working. We just “manage” the discomfort for a while, but it always comes back.This is a great post on a better way to approach the situation. Especially because I know his shoulders don’t have the best R.O.M. I never thought to look at other joints – just the muscles upstream and downstream his elbow. And in our training we just covered pranic bath yesterday and I loved it. Perfect timing. Thank you!!

  3. Peter Southall says:

    Thanks for offering a big picture view on a common problem.

  4. kaleen Lugo says:

    Wow I forgot about the nerve connections in the neck and how weak wrists could be such a factor in this issue with the elbows. So helpful! Thank you for the advice, can’t wait to pass it along to my students.

  5. Catherine RL says:

    Thank you for the informative article. As a person who suffers from many of the issues listed, these exercises will definitely be added to my regime.

  6. Ernie M says:

    We tend to focus on the bigger joints like shoulders, knees and hips and neglect our elbows until the elbows speak up through pain or discomfort. The exercises are good to integrate to keep our elbows happy. I have had some elbow complaints due to arm balances and through the ulna nerve flossing exercise, I noticed that there is some tightness and lack of mobility. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Katelynn Corman says:

    Thank you for this post. My mother has been complaining of elbow discomfort (avid golfer), so I will happily pass this information on to her. Just a great reminder that everything is so connected!

  8. Kristin Webb says:

    The wrist-elbow-shoulder-neck connection is so important for pain relief and proper form in Pilates, Yoga, and even in working at a desk. This post is a great reminder that we need to properly align (organize) all links in the chain before doing weight bearing work. Otherwise, we might be doing more harm than good.

  9. Jennifer M. says:

    I find this post thorough and helpful for me to harness the inter-contextual effectiveness of how YTU approaches looking at a specific issue such as tennis elbow.

    This post sets up the context grid clearly for me in a way that I understand. I appreciate the detailed examples as to what may be irritating the elbow as well as the basic explanation as to what is happening when irritated. It gets me thinking about how this pertains to me specifically and I see how it draws me in to care to even look further into the subject.

    The wrist – elbow – neck relationship helps me see how YTU treats one spot from a more global perspective.

  10. Ben says:

    The nerve flossing video was really useful, i had wrist problems after years of combat sports, i thought they were healed but i noticed a lack of mobility in those exercises, another person to follow on youtube, thanks.

  11. Shai says:

    Fantastic and informative post. So easy to get hyper focused on one part of the body, forgetting all the connection and supports the other parts make up.
    As an RMT I often get focused on my elbow discomfort this is a great reminder to widen my perspective.
    Thanks!

  12. Jean says:

    Great resources! I already love the Yoga Tune Up exercises, but I love the video with the nerve flossing exercises as I often feel some irritation when I do certain movements. Definitely something I can add to my repertoire.

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