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 Post subject: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Fri Nov 25, 2011 6:10 am 
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I tried googling this but didn't come up with anything helpful, so I figured I try here since there are at least several medically-type people, and I still don't have health insurance.

I haven't done biceps curls in like 6 months because everytime I move my arm in that motion, it pops. It doesn't hurt at all, but it really doesn't sound healthy and it's fairly loud. It's definitely a bone click *edit: noise, I don't know what it is* rather than a knuckle pop. Any thoughts from anyone? The not hurting at all part is weird, but I don't want to slowly grind down my elbow or something.

It doesn't pop if I keep my palm parallel to my body, as opposed to the normal perpendicular bicep curl.


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 Post subject: Re: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Fri Nov 25, 2011 4:52 pm 
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Good luck with your health insurance issue. It is a big deal. Let's hope the economy comes around and/or some kind of new coverage venue comes your way.

As for elbows and the weight room... I have a few pieces of advice.

  • If it hurts, don't do what hurts.
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  • If a joint is popping when you move in a certain way, then don't do what makes it pop. If you find a way to exercise the joint in a degree of freedom that doesn't cause the popping, then go with that.

We can spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is going on with your elbow. But there are a few take-home messages that will be helpful.

Unless you're a baseball pitcher, chances are what's damaged isn't something that requires surgery. The hard and repetitive throwing of pitching can damage the UCL (ulnar collateral ligament), which renders the arm useless. Recent advancements (Tommy John surgery) have led to an ability to repair said ligament so that the elbow is useful again in a few years. But you don't hear of position players needing this surgery. And it's rare outside of baseball.

Tennis players also are prone to elbow injuries. But that's a tendon inflammation problem. And if you had that, you'd know it.

More likely you have some kind of repetitive motion injury because you were doing an exercise the same way over an extended period of time. Or maybe you damaged the elbow doing air strikes. "It" happens. If you take a poll of long-term athletes, you'll find that most of them have balky body parts that they've learned to work with. Naturally it's better to avoid injuries. But rest, rehab, and then adaptation are in order when they happen.

Sometimes these conditions are forever. Occasionally for instance you can tear a tendon, and it heals with a lump of scar tissue on the afflicted spot. That's all fine and good, but now that "lump" can rub over a spot in a groove and cause a popping noise. Keep doing it, and you irritate the scar tissue, causing more trouble. So the best thing to do is avoid motions that irritate the spot.

Here are a few pieces of advice which should be helpful.

  • When possible, go see a medical professional. You're probably fine... but go ahead and bring it up in your next medical checkup. If your situation degrades, you might want to check with an orthopedist when/if that's possible. (I have to say that, TSDguy. It's the correct advice. There's no substite for a hands-on medical exam by a qualified professional.)
    .
  • If you want to look good on the beach, well then keep doing all those curls. But if you want to be a better martial artist, you should spend the vast majority of your weight workout doing exercises which recruit multiple muscle groups at the same time. First... you'll get stronger faster that way. These exercises require much more intensity, and intensity of training triggers the anabolic effect. Second... you'll learn to use your body better that way. Third... your body was designed to be used that way. The biceps curls should be "clean up" work at the end, along with some triceps (antagonists) and then wrist work. But even with the wrists and fingers... I now start with something like the old-fashioned Okinawan jar work in my weight training (I do it with a particular kind of dumbbell) before doing isolation work on the wrists and fingers.
    .
  • Don't over-train! I could spend forever on this subject. There is a correct amount and intensity of training. More than that is not better.
    .
  • Warm up before you train. And remember that stretching is NOT warming up. Cold bodies are brittle/stiff, and more prone to injury.
    .
  • Take a week or two of "active" rest every 12 weeks or so. Let your body recover before it accumulates the damage from repetitive motions. Then when you come back, have a changed routine. Don't keep doing the same exercises month after month, and year after year.
    .
  • Give your body permission to have a bad day, to need a little rehab work, and to need time to cut back on the intensity of what you're doing while you're dealing with a balky body and/or external stress. You should listen to your body, and respond accordingly.
    .
  • And finally... I highly recommend you learn how to do PNF stretching. Once you understand the principle, then do it during and after your weight training. For the elbow, you want PNF stretches that involve full flexion, full extension, supination (at 90-degree elbow bend) and pronation (at 90-degree elbow bend). This will make for a healthier, happier elbow. It'll also immunize you against the pain of certain grappling techniques, and make it possible for you to avoid the trauma from them.

Best of luck, my friend. Come back and tell us how things work out.

- Bill


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 Post subject: Re: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:18 pm 
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Thanks, that was a very thorough answer!


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 Post subject: Re: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:47 pm 
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Egad, just about every joint in my body pops at some point during the day...I think it is a condition called "age" :D

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 Post subject: Re: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 3:01 am 
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Glenn wrote:
Egad, just about every joint in my body pops at some point during the day...I think it is a condition called "age" :D

This is true. Your point - and sense of humor - are well taken.

However there are "pops" and then there are "pops." Emphasis is my own.

TSDguy wrote:
I haven't done biceps curls in like 6 months because everytime I move my arm in that motion, it pops.

I have enough direct experience and teaching experience to understand the difference between normal joint cracking (or age-related issues) and noises that shouldn't be ignored. The rest of his post confirms it. For any number of possible reasons, his elbow probably isn't functioning as it should.

I don't believe TSDguy is in imminent danger. I do however think it was very healthy and functional for him to sense that something wasn't as it should be, and be smart enough to reach out for opinions. Chances are good that his caution will serve him well.

Those of us who have been martial artists and/or athletes for decades - and are still practicing - have done so by knowing our bodies and understanding how to treat them. It's also about adapting to the hand that life deals us at any one point in time. That's part of what they mean by "the way." It isn't (necessarily) about being the biggest, the strongest, the fastest, or working the hardest. It does however require that we work smart.

- Bill


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 Post subject: Re: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:46 pm 
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I sympathize with the OP. My right hip goes 'clunk' every time I do a situp. Needless to say, it's not my favorite part of the PT test.

It also 'goes out' every once in a while, and I have to do point my foot, turning my whole leg to the outside, to get it to 'click,' before I can walk without pain. Last week I tried that maneuver and it didn't work. :!: The rest of the night was spent in misery.

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 Post subject: Re: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 6:03 pm 
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avoiding elbow pain.........


The first sort of elbow problem -- caused by ligament damage -- is usually the result of hyperextension of the elbow joint during biceps curls. The weight of the barbell or dumbbell forces your joint past it's proper range of motion when your arm is straight, causing the ligaments to stretch (or worse).

This is a common injury when people use a preacher bench without an ez-curl bar. The preacher bench makes it easy to get a full range of motion during high-intensity curls, but it also puts your elbow into a dangerous position. If you're not experienced with the preacher curl, you are in danger of hurting your elbow. The ez curl bar keeps your elbows oriented properly, reducing (but not eliminating) the danger.

The second type of elbow pain -- tendon damage -- is usually a result of overtraining. But it also happens when you "cheat" during a curl. The extra weight can cause a repetitive-stress injury to the elbow tendon as you lower the weight. Again, using an ez-curl bar keeps the elbows "locked into a groove" and helps prevent this sort of injury. Young guys who are obsessed with the appearance of their biceps in a tight t-shirt often fall prey to this sort of overuse injury. Performing endless sets of high-rep biceps curls will pump up your upper arms, but it won't build true strength and size. It's better to stick to a sensible number of sets and make sure to keep your reps below 12.

Finally, damage to the elbow joint is caused when ligament damage is present.

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 Post subject: Re: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:17 am 
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Jason Rees wrote:
My right hip goes 'clunk' every time I do a situp. Needless to say, it's not my favorite part of the PT test.

It also 'goes out' every once in a while, and I have to do point my foot, turning my whole leg to the outside, to get it to 'click,' before I can walk without pain. Last week I tried that maneuver and it didn't work. :!: The rest of the night was spent in misery.

This injury is not uncommon in martial arts. I have a bit of a balky hip myself, and consulted two experts in the field (Dan Kulund, MD, and Steven King, DC) about it. I think I have a few tips that may help.

First... The problem is with your hip flexor. The hip flexor is a series of three muscles: the Rectus Femoris, Psoas Major, and Illiacus.

Image

These muscles work together to lift your leg, or pull your knee to your chest. They are the primary muscle set worked in leg lifts, and are worked along with the abdominals when you do sit-ups.

If only you could turn back the clock... but you can't. So you go forward from here the best you can.

I'm willing to bet you have a soft-tissue injury that's causing the binding and clicking. If you look at the muscles and how they cross over various structures, you can see how things can go bad when you have an injury and then scar tissue. It can cause binding and "crunching."

The best way to deal with this injury is to work on flexibility and strength of both the hip flexors and your glutes. Both must be strong AND flexible. Generally an injury situation must address both agonist and antagonist.

Dealing with the hip flexor... I highly recommend you do the following stretch via PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation). I mentioned that style of stretching above. If you're not familiar and want me to start another thread on it, I will.

Here is the stretch you want to do. I chose a few pictures so you'll get the idea.

Image

Image

Interestingly enough, I got both of those pictures (serendipitously) off of martial arts websites. Go figure... It must be a common injury for martial artists.

What you want to do - AFTER YOU ARE REASONABLY WARMED UP - is to get into the stretch position and then perform an isometric exercise of your hip flexor muscle being stretched. (That is the essence of PNF stretching) In other words, assume the position and then try to kick your back leg through the floor as strongly as you can for a count of 7 to 10 seconds. Relax and hold it for a bit, and then switch to the other side.

Be sure to do the same for the antagonists or the glutes. You do that by laying down on the floor and pulling your knee to your chest - one at a time. Of course the PNF part is trying to push your leg down while you're locking it in position with your arms.

Image

Here's a more advanced stretch of the hip flexor. This is a bit of neurophysiology trickery. Some time I'll explain how and why this works. Go all the way to the bottom of the article for the hip flexor version of this exercise principle.

Zig-Zag-Zig": A quick way to relieve a tight muscle -- and KEEP it that way!


You can substitute other glute/back exercises - like walking lunges - for the one shown. But that particular exercise tends to emphasize the lower back more than the glutes.

- Bill


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 Post subject: Re: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 9:04 am 
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Awesome, Bill. Thanks! I'll start incorporating that.

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 Post subject: Re: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2011 10:39 am 
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Just to clarify, it pops every time I move it in a bicep curl position regardless of weight or no weight or pain. I no longer move it that way (obviously) and that's ok. Bicep curls - as BG indirectly pointed out - are not that natural of an exercise.

I'm totally fine and click-free when I do natural movement exercises and I can work out more muscles doing them.


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 Post subject: Re: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 9:55 am 
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I appreciate this topic...I've had some elbow trouble in my right arm myself in the last few months. My issue is (I believe) tendon related. I get pain when using my right arm for certain tasks that require the elbow to be extended (like riding a bicycle or motorcycle, swinging a golf club, and, of course, training). Clenching a fist also causes pain there, as the various muscles and ligaments tighten up. Thankfully the condition is slowing getting better. I have been taking it easy, and I've noticed the inflammation that is present in the elbow at rest has gone down.

Aside from just taking it easy, I have used ice packs on the area after training, which seems to help 9feels good as well).

/NB

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 Post subject: Re: Elbow pops
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:13 pm 
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The acronym for first steps in treating an injury is R.I.C.E. - Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. So obviously you got the R and the I down. Ice is one of the best medicines in your toolkit. It's especially valuable for arresting inflammation, swelling, and internal bleeding.

Best of luck with your elbow. It does sound like you're on the right path to recovery. But you might want to consider adding some light weight training in your rehab as things begin to get better. PNF stretches can also help. I regularly do PNF (isometric contractions) in the fully extended and fully flexed positions, as well as bending the elbow at 90 degrees and doing full supination and full pronation. I'm betting your elbow will respond well to this.

- Bill


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