T Nation

Elbow/Tricep Tendonitis

Has anyone here ever had tendonitis in their elbow from a tendon that is connected to the tricep? 2 weeks ago I injured it doing lying tricep extensions, and since it still hurts I am still unable to workout any part of my upper body. I tried doing a back/biceps workout since those movements did not hurt, but the next day the elbow was sore and difficult to move.

If anyone has had this problem in the past, I’m wondering how long it took you to heal, what you did to recover (if anything) besides ice, rest, and NSAIDs, and maybe some muscle loss prevention strategies?

Is there any swelling in the area?

[quote]Dabubzilla wrote:
Has anyone here ever had tendonitis in their elbow from a tendon that is connected to the tricep? 2 weeks ago I injured it doing lying tricep extensions, and since it still hurts I am still unable to workout any part of my upper body. I tried doing a back/biceps workout since those movements did not hurt, but the next day the elbow was sore and difficult to move.

If anyone has had this problem in the past, I’m wondering how long it took you to heal, what you did to recover (if anything) besides ice, rest, and NSAIDs, and maybe some muscle loss prevention strategies? [/quote]

Yes there is definitely swelling right on the pointed part of my elbow.

[quote]MurrDawg wrote:
Is there any swelling in the area?

Dabubzilla wrote:
Has anyone here ever had tendonitis in their elbow from a tendon that is connected to the tricep? 2 weeks ago I injured it doing lying tricep extensions, and since it still hurts I am still unable to workout any part of my upper body. I tried doing a back/biceps workout since those movements did not hurt, but the next day the elbow was sore and difficult to move.

If anyone has had this problem in the past, I’m wondering how long it took you to heal, what you did to recover (if anything) besides ice, rest, and NSAIDs, and maybe some muscle loss prevention strategies?

[/quote]

As you’re probably aware, you have to ice the area for the first two days after the injury, preferably 3 times a day. After that, the inflammation is gone and you apply heat, especially after your workout. (You can also wrap a tension bandage loosely around the area for a few hours a couple of times a day to keep the area warm.) Any pain you feel now is scar tissue breaking down, and that hurts as well.

If you can apply or get someone to do ART to the area, it can help, as well as ultrasound. As far as your workouts are concerned, you’ll have to cut back on the weight and experiment on what exercises you can do and don’t further irritate it. It’s a fine line between recognizing pain you have to work through, and pain that’s going to set you back.

Also, avoid locking out your elbow, and don’t allow your elbow to bend less than 90 degrees (both very bad). It’s important to isolate all the exercises in your routine that could also be contributing to the problem, including bicep and chest work, and possibly even pullups. If it hurts, find another way to do it until you recover, then bring it back in slowly. I think the rule would be if it hurts slightly during the set, it’s okay to a point. If the pain lingers after the set, try something else, but it’s going to take a while to clear up. And that’s my opinion.

Thanks for the reply. If I am to continue doing exercises that don’t aggravate it then I have to completely cut out any upper body pressing movements. I would not be able to do either my chest or my shoulders, and obviously not my triceps directly. Also, it will be difficult to workout any part of my upper body without fully extending or flexing the elbow more than 90 degrees with exercises like pullups or bicep curls.

Even worse, I have no idea how to tell the difference between pain that I should work through or pain that will set me back. When I had physical therapy for a shoulder dislocation 2 years ago, it was very painful sometimes. If it were not for a physical therapist, I would not have known whether the pain would be helping or hurting me in some cases.

Also, is it smart to workout all the pulling muscles in my upper body and just forget about the pressing ones while my tricep heals? I don’t want to create any imbalances.

Don’t take any of that as me saying that you are out and out wrong. I appreciate the feedback, but I don’t know if working through it is going to help or hurt me, especially since I will not be able to hit half of my upper body at all. I’d like to hear other’s opinions, too.

[quote]Brian888 wrote:
As you’re probably aware, you have to ice the area for the first two days after the injury, preferably 3 times a day. After that, the inflammation is gone and you apply heat, especially after your workout. (You can also wrap a tension bandage loosely around the area for a few hours a couple of times a day to keep the area warm.) Any pain you feel now is scar tissue breaking down, and that hurts as well.

If you can apply or get someone to do ART to the area, it can help, as well as ultrasound. As far as your workouts are concerned, you’ll have to cut back on the weight and experiment on what exercises you can do and don’t further irritate it. It’s a fine line between recognizing pain you have to work through, and pain that’s going to set you back.

Also, avoid locking out your elbow, and don’t allow your elbow to bend less than 90 degrees (both very bad). It’s important to isolate all the exercises in your routine that could also be contributing to the problem, including bicep and chest work, and possibly even pullups. If it hurts, find another way to do it until you recover, then bring it back in slowly. I think the rule would be if it hurts slightly during the set, it’s okay to a point. If the pain lingers after the set, try something else, but it’s going to take a while to clear up. And that’s my opinion.[/quote]

It doesnt sound to me like a tendon, scar tissue or anything of that nature… By the sounds of it, you probably have elbow bursitis. I had it a few years back… it hurts like hell, swells up pretty good, hurts bad when you try and straighten your arm, and isnt something to take too lightly. You should probably go and see your Doctor about it.
The bursa sac in your elbow is basically inflamed, or actually may have burst, causing the swelling. The thing you really have to watch out for is if the bursa gets infected (thats why Id go to the Doctor). If its infected you need antibiotics, otherwise it wont get better. I didnt go to a Doctor, just went to my trainer at my college and he kept saying “oh it will get better soon”… 2 months later it was worse than ever… I almost had to get hooked up to an IV 24/7 to get rid of the infection.
the reason mine got infected was because the trainer at my school drained the area to get rid of the swelling (a very common thing done in this case)… but that caused the infection… so Id be careful if they suggest that procedure.

I dont mean to scare you, just want you to realize that you should have that looked at.

I may be wrong, but that definitely sounds like elbow bursitis to me.

From About.com

What is elbow bursitis?
Elbow bursitis, also called olecranon bursitis, causes fluid to collect in a sac that lies behind the elbow, called the olecranon bursa. A bursa is a slippery, sac-like tissue that normally allows smooth movement around bony prominences, such as the point behind the elbow. When a bursa becomes inflamed, the sac fills with fluid. This can cause pain and a noticeable swelling behind the elbow.
Why did I get elbow bursitis?
Elbow bursitis may follow a traumatic accident, such as a fall onto the back of the elbow, or it may seemingly pop up out of nowhere. People who rest their elbows on hard surfaces may aggravate the condition and make the swelling more prominent.

How is the diagnosis of elbow bursitis made?
The common symptoms of elbow bursitis include:

Pain around the back of the elbow

Swelling directly over the bony prominence of the tip of the elbow

Slightly limited motion of the elbow
There are other conditions that can cause elbow pain and swelling, and these should also be considered as a possible diagnosis.

Are the complications of elbow bursitis?
Occasionally, the swelling and inflammation can be the result of an infection within the bursa, this is called infected elbow bursitis. Patients with systemic inflammatory conditions, such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis, are also at increased risk of developing infected elbow bursitis

[quote]Dabubzilla wrote:
Thanks for the reply. If I am to continue doing exercises that don’t aggravate it then I have to completely cut out any upper body pressing movements. I would not be able to do either my chest or my shoulders, and obviously not my triceps directly. Also, it will be difficult to workout any part of my upper body without fully extending or flexing the elbow more than 90 degrees with exercises like pullups or bicep curls.

Even worse, I have no idea how to tell the difference between pain that I should work through or pain that will set me back. When I had physical therapy for a shoulder dislocation 2 years ago, it was very painful sometimes. If it were not for a physical therapist, I would not have known whether the pain would be helping or hurting me in some cases.

Also, is it smart to workout all the pulling muscles in my upper body and just forget about the pressing ones while my tricep heals? I don’t want to create any imbalances.

Don’t take any of that as me saying that you are out and out wrong. I appreciate the feedback, but I don’t know if working through it is going to help or hurt me, especially since I will not be able to hit half of my upper body at all. I’d like to hear other’s opinions, too.

Brian888 wrote:
As you’re probably aware, you have to ice the area for the first two days after the injury, preferably 3 times a day. After that, the inflammation is gone and you apply heat, especially after your workout. (You can also wrap a tension bandage loosely around the area for a few hours a couple of times a day to keep the area warm.) Any pain you feel now is scar tissue breaking down, and that hurts as well.

If you can apply or get someone to do ART to the area, it can help, as well as ultrasound. As far as your workouts are concerned, you’ll have to cut back on the weight and experiment on what exercises you can do and don’t further irritate it. It’s a fine line between recognizing pain you have to work through, and pain that’s going to set you back.

Also, avoid locking out your elbow, and don’t allow your elbow to bend less than 90 degrees (both very bad). It’s important to isolate all the exercises in your routine that could also be contributing to the problem, including bicep and chest work, and possibly even pullups. If it hurts, find another way to do it until you recover, then bring it back in slowly. I think the rule would be if it hurts slightly during the set, it’s okay to a point. If the pain lingers after the set, try something else, but it’s going to take a while to clear up. And that’s my opinion.

[/quote]

MurrDawg,

When you had your bursitis taken care of, how long did it take to clea up after the infection was taken care of?

Once the infection was gone it cleared up pretty quickly. If I remember correctly they were guessing it would go away completely in about 2 weeks or so… but the infection obviously delayed that quite a bit.
I’d definitely get it checked out.

There are all sorts of articles on the net about elbow bursitis… just throw it in a search engine and you’ll get a bunch of hits.

thanks for the help. i’ll schedule a doc’s appointment asap

[quote]MurrDawg wrote:
It doesnt sound to me like a tendon, scar tissue or anything of that nature… By the sounds of it, you probably have elbow bursitis. I had it a few years back… it hurts like hell, swells up pretty good, hurts bad when you try and straighten your arm, and isnt something to take too lightly. You should probably go and see your Doctor about it.
The bursa sac in your elbow is basically inflamed, or actually may have burst, causing the swelling. The thing you really have to watch out for is if the bursa gets infected (thats why Id go to the Doctor). If its infected you need antibiotics, otherwise it wont get better. I didnt go to a Doctor, just went to my trainer at my college and he kept saying “oh it will get better soon”… 2 months later it was worse than ever… I almost had to get hooked up to an IV 24/7 to get rid of the infection.
the reason mine got infected was because the trainer at my school drained the area to get rid of the swelling (a very common thing done in this case)… but that caused the infection… so Id be careful if they suggest that procedure.

I dont mean to scare you, just want you to realize that you should have that looked at.

I may be wrong, but that definitely sounds like elbow bursitis to me.

From About.com

What is elbow bursitis?
Elbow bursitis, also called olecranon bursitis, causes fluid to collect in a sac that lies behind the elbow, called the olecranon bursa. A bursa is a slippery, sac-like tissue that normally allows smooth movement around bony prominences, such as the point behind the elbow. When a bursa becomes inflamed, the sac fills with fluid. This can cause pain and a noticeable swelling behind the elbow.
Why did I get elbow bursitis?
Elbow bursitis may follow a traumatic accident, such as a fall onto the back of the elbow, or it may seemingly pop up out of nowhere. People who rest their elbows on hard surfaces may aggravate the condition and make the swelling more prominent.

How is the diagnosis of elbow bursitis made?
The common symptoms of elbow bursitis include:

Pain around the back of the elbow

Swelling directly over the bony prominence of the tip of the elbow

Slightly limited motion of the elbow
There are other conditions that can cause elbow pain and swelling, and these should also be considered as a possible diagnosis.

Are the complications of elbow bursitis?
Occasionally, the swelling and inflammation can be the result of an infection within the bursa, this is called infected elbow bursitis. Patients with systemic inflammatory conditions, such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis, are also at increased risk of developing infected elbow bursitis

Dabubzilla wrote:
Thanks for the reply. If I am to continue doing exercises that don’t aggravate it then I have to completely cut out any upper body pressing movements. I would not be able to do either my chest or my shoulders, and obviously not my triceps directly. Also, it will be difficult to workout any part of my upper body without fully extending or flexing the elbow more than 90 degrees with exercises like pullups or bicep curls.

Even worse, I have no idea how to tell the difference between pain that I should work through or pain that will set me back. When I had physical therapy for a shoulder dislocation 2 years ago, it was very painful sometimes. If it were not for a physical therapist, I would not have known whether the pain would be helping or hurting me in some cases.

Also, is it smart to workout all the pulling muscles in my upper body and just forget about the pressing ones while my tricep heals? I don’t want to create any imbalances.

Don’t take any of that as me saying that you are out and out wrong. I appreciate the feedback, but I don’t know if working through it is going to help or hurt me, especially since I will not be able to hit half of my upper body at all. I’d like to hear other’s opinions, too.

Brian888 wrote:
As you’re probably aware, you have to ice the area for the first two days after the injury, preferably 3 times a day. After that, the inflammation is gone and you apply heat, especially after your workout. (You can also wrap a tension bandage loosely around the area for a few hours a couple of times a day to keep the area warm.) Any pain you feel now is scar tissue breaking down, and that hurts as well.

If you can apply or get someone to do ART to the area, it can help, as well as ultrasound. As far as your workouts are concerned, you’ll have to cut back on the weight and experiment on what exercises you can do and don’t further irritate it. It’s a fine line between recognizing pain you have to work through, and pain that’s going to set you back.

Also, avoid locking out your elbow, and don’t allow your elbow to bend less than 90 degrees (both very bad). It’s important to isolate all the exercises in your routine that could also be contributing to the problem, including bicep and chest work, and possibly even pullups. If it hurts, find another way to do it until you recover, then bring it back in slowly. I think the rule would be if it hurts slightly during the set, it’s okay to a point. If the pain lingers after the set, try something else, but it’s going to take a while to clear up. And that’s my opinion.

[/quote]
I believe he’s right and it is elbow bursitis. I’ve had it many times but never allowed it to go to the extent of swelling. I have it in my right elbow now. My suggestions mean nothing at that point when you’ve allowed it to go as far as you have. Medical attention is your only option. Recognizing it early has allowed me to adjust my workouts as I recommended (except there probably isn’t any scar tissue to work through) until I can get rid of it. That means reducing the inflammation, stretching and don’t aggravate it further. I haven’t had to give up on any muscle group because of it. The hard part is avoiding it in the first place.

The swelling is not prominent, in fact it is barely visible lately, and the pain is starting go away. I have, however, made an appointment to go see an orthopedic doctor on friday, and I’ll let you know what the outcome is. I do, however, feel like I am healing.

Thats great… I really hope its getting better and you dont have to go through anything like I went through.

Good luck and I hope everything works out well.

[quote]Brian888 wrote:
As you’re probably aware, you have to ice the area for the first two days after the injury, preferably 3 times a day. After that, the inflammation is gone and you apply heat, especially after your workout. [/quote]

This advice is, at best, sort of true…in some cases.

Yes, you want to ice for the first 48-72 hours, and yes you can switch to heat after that, IF the swelling is gone.

There is no rule that says the swelling will subside after 48 hours. As a matter of fact, with more severe injuries, the inflammation process often last much longer.

You aren’t going to do any harm by icing an extra day, but if you switch to heat a day early, you are going to promote vasodilation, which will definitely increase the swelling.

Any time you are dealing with an inflammation injury (tendinitis, bursitis, etc) ice is the best choice after a workout. You are trying to limit blood flow to the area to prevent the swelling. Ice for 10-15 minutes.

If you are going to heat the injury, it should be prior to the workout in order to promote blood flow (which will act as a warm up).

I’m not trying to sound overly critical, but the advice you gave was the bare minimum for switching from ice to heat. And the heating post workout advice is just plain wrong.

So I went to the doctor yesterday and here are the results. After looking at my arm for a while and taking some xrays, his diagnosis was tendonitis from overuse/stress from the exercise. He told me to stay away from lying triceps extensions because of the unusually high strain it places on the joint.

He told me to resume upper body work like biceps and back work that does not directly activate the triceps and said I could do exercises that involve the triceps IF I used low weight and stopped if it was painful and to gradually work back to where I was before.

I guess to sum it up, I’m cleared to workout as long as I stick with exercises/weights that don’t cause me pain. That made me pretty happy.

A suggestion would be also to work the tricep from the wrist area up, by doing wrist curls and extensions with a light weight.

[quote]Theresa40 wrote:
A suggestion would be also to work the tricep from the wrist area up, by doing wrist curls and extensions with a light weight.[/quote]

Theresa40,
How are wrist curls and extensions going to work the triceps? I don’t disagree that they would be beneficial for treating a tendinitis injury (so long as they are done relatively pain free) but I’m not sure I understand your recommendation.

[quote]Dabubzilla wrote:
Has anyone here ever had tendonitis in their elbow from a tendon that is connected to the tricep? 2 weeks ago I injured it doing lying tricep extensions, and since it still hurts I am still unable to workout any part of my upper body. I tried doing a back/biceps workout since those movements did not hurt, but the next day the elbow was sore and difficult to move.

If anyone has had this problem in the past, I’m wondering how long it took you to heal, what you did to recover (if anything) besides ice, rest, and NSAIDs, and maybe some muscle loss prevention strategies? [/quote]

Hey Dude,
I see that your message was sent back in Oct. 2006, so I apologize in advance since I just saw it today. In any event I just overcame 11 years fighting tricep tendonitis. I’ve seen several physical therapists and done ultrasound, electrostem, paraffin wax, friction massage, homemade cryogenic cups, etc.

Nothing really worked until I went to see an orthopedic specialist. He suggested an MRI to identify the problem and then a treatment known as Astym. This is a type of massage using several plastic tools each about 5 inches long.

I opted for the treatment. The bad news is that my insurance didn’t cover it. I had a total of 8 sessions at a cost of $100/each. The good news is that it worked…beautifully. If you’re interested you may want to check out http://www.astym.com/. It will refer you to local providers who know how to apply this treatment.

Good luck!

Thanks for the tip, but my tendonitis has cleared up completely. I do seem to be prone to tendon injuries though, so I will keep this in mind if I have severe problems in the future.

[quote]noroids wrote:
Dabubzilla wrote:
Has anyone here ever had tendonitis in their elbow from a tendon that is connected to the tricep? 2 weeks ago I injured it doing lying tricep extensions, and since it still hurts I am still unable to workout any part of my upper body. I tried doing a back/biceps workout since those movements did not hurt, but the next day the elbow was sore and difficult to move.

If anyone has had this problem in the past, I’m wondering how long it took you to heal, what you did to recover (if anything) besides ice, rest, and NSAIDs, and maybe some muscle loss prevention strategies?

Hey Dude,
I see that your message was sent back in Oct. 2006, so I apologize in advance since I just saw it today. In any event I just overcame 11 years fighting tricep tendonitis. I’ve seen several physical therapists and done ultrasound, electrostem, paraffin wax, friction massage, homemade cryogenic cups, etc.

Nothing really worked until I went to see an orthopedic specialist. He suggested an MRI to identify the problem and then a treatment known as Astym. This is a type of massage using several plastic tools each about 5 inches long.

I opted for the treatment. The bad news is that my insurance didn’t cover it. I had a total of 8 sessions at a cost of $100/each. The good news is that it worked…beautifully. If you’re interested you may want to check out http://www.astym.com/. It will refer you to local providers who know how to apply this treatment.

Good luck!

[/quote]