Q. I have been working out regularly and developed pain about two months ago in the back part of my left elbow. It did not swell and I did not feel a pop. However, whenever I work out the pain gets worse and I have had to cut my weight in half. I also feel some cracking in my left elbow that used to not be there. I do not want to give up my training as I like to work out in the gym at least three to four days a week. Any suggestions?
A: Injuries to the elbows are very common in sports. Usually it is the dominant arm that is injured to overuse sports such as tennis and baseball. However, injuries to the elbow that are the result of chronic repetitive stresses usually happen on the weaker side, thus the non-dominant elbow.
Most likely you have a form of tendonitis and since it is in the back part of the elbow, it likely is an insertional tendonitis of the triceps tendon. The triceps helps extend the elbow and can be injured as the result of one acute event that can result in a tear, which requires surgery to fix.
Your injury sounds like the result of many months of training and can be the result of overuse or improper lifting techniques. Other possible causes of pain in the back of the elbow could be related to a spur, bursitis, early arthritis, or impingement. Since the symptoms have been present for two months I recommend you see an orthopedic surgeon or upper extremity specialist for evaluation. In addition to the physical exam, you may require X-rays and possibly even an MRI scan. Most tendonitis overuse injuries will respond to modification of lifting techniques, anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy.
Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to HarlanS@baptisthealth.net