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Pull-Ups When Suffering From Tennis Elbow
If you suffer from tennis elbow, you might be eager to get back to your normal exercise routine. Pull-ups aren't necessarily dangerous when you have tennis elbow, but you should talk to your doctor before you begin any exercise routine after an injury. Improper pull-up technique can actually lead to tennis elbow, so it's vital that you master the art of the pull-up.
Your Aching Elbows
Tennis elbow usually occurs when you overuse and stress the tendons in your elbow. It's named for tennis, a sport that is a prime culprit in the condition -- but racquetball, golf and any sport that repeatedly bends your elbow can cause the condition. Tennis elbow causes inflammation and pain in the tendons surrounding your elbow. Minor pain might go away on its own, but if you have a more serious version of the condition, you might need physical therapy or even surgery, and your doctor might advise you to steer clear of activities that could worsen your condition.
How You Got Tennis Elbow
Repeated use of the tendons around your elbow can cause tiny tears in the tendons. If you continue overusing your elbow, these tears can become inflamed, causing pain in your elbow and the area immediately surrounding it. Overexercising, improper exercise technique and working already sore muscles all increase your likelihood of getting the condition. You can even get tennis elbow from pull-ups, particularly if you do too many or perform pull-ups in a way that puts significant stress on your elbow.
Exercising Through the Pain
Pull-ups can play a role in helping you recover from a minor case of tennis elbow, and can even help you steadily strengthen muscles and tendons so that the condition doesn't happen again. But you should stay away from pull-ups if the pain is severe or if you haven't yet seen a doctor. Start slowly, doing only a pull-up or two at a time, and allow your body to give you feedback. If you experience more pain after doing pull-ups, you need to avoid the exercise for at least another couple of days.
Getting Pullups Right
The right pull-up technique can help you avoid making tennis elbow worse. Avoid gripping the bar tightly or using an overhand grip. Instead, try a relaxed overhand "hook" grasp, using your fingers rather than the palms of your hands to grasp the bar. Move your hands closer together for even better results. An underhand grip can also help you avoid worsening your injury, although it will yield a slightly different workout.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Tennis Elbow
- Medline Plus: Tennis Elbow
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis). 2015.
- American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Tennis Elbow - Lateral Epicondylitis. 2017.
- Kane SF, Lynch JH, Taylor JC. Evaluation of Elbow Pain in Adults. Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(8):649-657.
- Calfee RP, Patel A, DaSilva MF, Akelman E. Management of lateral epicondylitis: current concepts. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2008;16(1):19-29. doi:10.5435/00124635-200801000-00004
- Javed M, Mustafa S, Boyle S, Scott F. Elbow pain: a guide to assessment and management in primary care. Br J Gen Pract. 2015;65(640):610-612. doi:10.3399/bjgp15X687625
- Dines JS et al. Tennis injuries: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and treatment. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2015 Mar;23(3):181-9. doi:10.5435/JAAOS-D-13-00148
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.