Elbow Pain When Pushing

Your Pain Pattern,
What Aggravates It,

The Underlying Anatomy
How to Get relief,
and more…

Want to skip ahead?
Here’s a link to my post about
getting relief on your own.

How People Describe This Pain Pattern

The trigger point referral patterns discussed here all come from the same muscle, the triceps brachii. Also, They all create elbow pain when you forcefully straighten the elbow. When they are chronic, they hurt all the time.

Many patients complain of “tennis elbow.” Therapeutically, it is called “lateral epicondylitis” and can come from trigger point referral of several different muscles. Usually, it comes from the supinator muscle and hurts during a twisting flick of the wrist. Each of these “tennis elbow” patterns is a little different.

People who don’t play tennis complain of other activities that straighten the elbow under resistance. Weight lifting, gardening, pressing out cookies, and bracing yourself on amusement rides are classic irritants.

Elbow Pain While Moving the Arm Back

This is one of the most common patterns for elbow pain. It produces pain that hurts at the elbow and creates vague pain up the back of the arm. This head of the triceps crosses the shoulder and elbow joint. So, it bothers people in activities that forcefully extend the elbow while drawing the arm back or down. This one is different from the other two because there is often vague pain along the back of the arm.

Sometimes, This trigger point hurts primarily at the shoulder. Those motions tend to happen when the shoulder is stretched overhead, like serving a tennis ball. I discuss that in this other post.

How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern

In tennis, this often hurts in a reaching backhand with a backspin. It can also be aggravated on service when the elbow snaps straight.

For patients that don’t play tennis, They aggravate in other ways. Whipping the hose behind you while working in the yard irritates it. It bothers some people when tugging the covers while making the bed. Again, this involves straightening the elbow while moving the arm down or back.

Chronic Pain Extends Toward Thumb

This trigger point creates pain in pushing motions that straighten the elbow, like serving or a reaching backstroke. For players, it still seems to be “tennis elbow.” Other people create this pain with some unusually vigorous activity in the yard or the house or on a physically challenging weekend outing.

When this is chronic, the outside of the elbow aches constantly. Often, it creates a trail of pain toward the thumb.

How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern

Unlke the previous trigger point, the shoulder and upper arm movements are less important. This is the meaty prime mover of the elbow that secures to the humerus instead of crossing over to the shoulder blade.

People activate this with repetitive, forceful, or jerky activities like digging in the yard. Also, weightlifting bench presses, shoulder presses, chopping nuts and cutting cookies aggravate this muscle. Sometimes, forceful throwing does it too.

Feels Bruised

Sometimes, patients complain of pain right on the hard prominence of the elbow. Anatomically this is called the olecranon process. Patients are often concerned that they have bruised or strained the attachments on the elbow. They also express concerns about having bumped the elbow or damaged the joint, and they don’t know how they did it.

How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern

This is a different trigger point in the same medial head of the triceps. It also hurts under a forceful extension of the elbow in the same sort of activities. On this one, like the previous trigger point, stabilizing the shoulder or extending the arm is not as important.

Take a look at the activities in the previous section. The same activities of repetitive, forceful or jerky extension of the elbow aggravate this too. Digging. Chopping. Throwing. Dumbell Presses.


The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain

Anatomy – Throacic Outlet

The anatomy of these structures is important to understand the syndrome. This post walks through the structures one at a time.

Triceps does more than extend the elbow. Learn more in this post about the anatomy of triceps brachii.

Getting Relief on Your Own

Clinically Proven
Self-Care Strategies

This post has strategies for getting relief on your own. Explore how to change your activities, stretch, and other strategies that relieve the pain associated with this trigger point.

Therapy Notes for Massage and Bodywork

Better Bodywork
Through Shared Expertise

This post has techniques, tips, treatment routines, and anatomy illustrations to improve the bodyworker’s approach.

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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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