Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Why do my elbows feel sore and swollen after I lift weights?"

ZocdocAnswersWhy do my elbows feel sore and swollen after I lift weights?


I am a 39 year old male in good health with no previous elbow or arm injuries. I lift weights 4 to 5 times a week and run or bike 3 to 4 days a week. Lately, whenever I lift weights, I sometimes feel a sharp but not severe pain in both elbows, especially the left elbow. The left elbow has become slightly swollen. I am already icing the affected area once or twice a day, which seems to help, but I wonder if I should be doing more. (And yes, I am taking it easy on the weights for the next couple of weeks).


You are already doing the most important things in terms of therapy for this pain, which is backing off on the weights and other activity which seems to be bothering it and applying ice as needed. You should rest the area until the pain is completely gone before gradually resuming activity. The most likely possibility in terms of cause of this pain is tendonitis of the elbow. This is popularly called tennis elbow when the pain is mostly on the outer side of the elbow and golf elbow when the pain is mostly on the inner side of the elbow. The tendonitis occurs from repetitive strain and motion, such as lifting weights in your cause. Fortunately, it tends to resolve completely if you follow the instructions to rest as above. You may also want to try antiinflammatory medicines like ibuprofen. Sometimes strengthening exercises or stretching exercises once the pain has calmed down can be helpful, and your personal trainer or primary care doctor should be able to give you some information on which exercises to perform. If the area becomes very painful, swollen, or reddened, this could be sign of a different problem, such as an infection and you would need to seek more urgent medical care.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.