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Is Your Elbow Pain Actually An Elbow Problem?

Elbow pain

Whenever someone has a pain somewhere they typically like to go right to the source of the pain and start trying to fix it. Depending on the situation it could work, but more times than not the pain is just a symptom of a problem somewhere else in the body. So what could possibly be causing pain in my elbow if the elbow isn’t the problem? Let’s explore a few possibilities.

Elbow Anatomy

As you can see the anatomy can be very complex around the elbow, but if you notice many of the muscles that attach to the elbow also attach to the wrist. Therefore the muscles that move the wrist will also have some affect on the elbow as well. So what does that actually mean?

How the Wrist Affects the Elbow

So now that we know many of the muscles that move the wrist also affect the elbow we can break down how these muscles influence the elbow. The wrist has two main functions, flexion and extension. Wrist extension is the position your hand would be in, in a pushup position. Flexion would be the movement your wrist makes when flicking your wrist after a throwing motion. If either of these wrist movements are limited, whether it be from the muscle being tight from overuse or a mobility/stability issue, it can cause havoc at the elbow. The tight muscles will pull on the tendons of the elbow potentially creating an overuse injury like tennis elbow (lateral elbow pain) or golfer/climbers elbow (medial elbow pain).

Below are pictures of wrist extension (left) and wrist flexion (right).

How To Increase Wrist Flexibility

In order to increase your wrist flexibility you need to decrease the tightness of the muscles that are holding back your range of motion. There are going to be two main groups of muscles you want to aim for. The wrist flexor group and the wrist extensor group. Typically if your pain if felt on the outside of your elbow then you will want to focus on the flexor group. For pain felt on the inside, target your focus on the extensor group of muscles. A healthy dose of both can never hurt though 😉

Wrist Flexibility Protocol

The first plan of attack would be to decrease the tightness in the forearm muscles. Trigger point releasing and stretching will be your most effective tools for decreasing tightness and increasing length of the muscle leading to more flexibility. Start with releases of the forearms for 30 sec – 2 mins followed by stretches for 30 sec – 1 min. After decreasing the tightness we can effectively start implementing mobilization drills for 10-15 reps in each direction. These drills will help gain more range of motion at the wrist joint so you can start using your wrists to their full potential!

*Always consult a doctor first and get a diagnosis of the pain. Only then can you know how to effectively treat the pain. If it’s an overuse injury and not something more serious these protocols could be effective for you.

Wrist Extensors Release
Wrist Flexors Release
Wrist Extensors Stretch
Wrist Flexors Stretch

Wrist Mobilizations.

Your wrist flexibility is only one piece to the elbow pain puzzle, how your shoulder moves is a huge factor as well! Stay tuned for how your shoulder could be affecting your elbow and causing pain.

Written By:

Robert Jost


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