Tendinitis from pull ups

Ian2000

Level 1 Valued Member
I recently have begun vigorously practicing pull ups in anticipation for possible enlistment in the Marines (3 is required to enter), I managed to do 2 with my palms facing me, however I noticed a weird pain in my forearm and eventually my elbow, I soon discovered, as this pain increased in intensity, that this was tendinitis.
Is there any way I can avoid tendinitis in the future doing pull ups? Thanks in advance.
 

Snowman

Level 6 Valued Member
Welcome to the forum! Also, thank you for considering military service.

I recently had the same issue for about 5 months, and it was pretty irritating. For me it was related to how I was dropping the kettlebell during snatches. The only thing that helped was time off, and I'm assuming the reason it so long for me to heal was because I never took any significant time off. Really, it didn't go away until I switched to a carnivore diet (for different reasons) and the inflammation went away, but I'm not suggesting you go carnivore just to make your elbow feel better. That would probably be a little excessive o_O.

You can always go to the doc and have them stick some cortisone in it, which decreases inflammation locally. Some people respond really well to that.
 

Ian2000

Level 1 Valued Member
Thanks for the reply!
I will check out the carnivore diet, and I just saw a doctor and they gave me some anti-inflammatory stuff and said I cant work out till the 15th (RIP).
My main concern would be the tendinitis coming back, did it come back in your experience? Or did you switch to another exercise and it did not occur there?
Again thanks for the help.
 

mprevost

Level 6 Valued Member
Where is the tendonitis? Is it on the inside or outside of the elbow? My guess is that this is a grip strength issue.
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
Thanks for the reply!
I will check out the carnivore diet, and I just saw a doctor and they gave me some anti-inflammatory stuff and said I cant work out till the 15th (RIP).
My main concern would be the tendinitis coming back, did it come back in your experience? Or did you switch to another exercise and it did not occur there?
Again thanks for the help.
Just a quick semantic check. Many people (not all) consider palms facing to be a 'chin-up'. Palms away to be a 'pull-up'. But vernacular notwithstanding... make sure you are totally clear of symptoms prior to starting back with whatever brand of 'ups' you are considering.
Do wrist pronators as a rehab exercise and more importantly do them as a pre-hab exercise. Do finger extensor exercises with rubber bands.
And do your pull-ups on rings not on a fixed bar.
 

Ian2000

Level 1 Valued Member
Just a quick semantic check. Many people (not all) consider palms facing to be a 'chin-up'. Palms away to be a 'pull-up'. But vernacular notwithstanding... make sure you are totally clear of symptoms prior to starting back with whatever brand of 'ups' you are considering.
Do wrist pronators as a rehab exercise and more importantly do them as a pre-hab exercise. Do finger extensor exercises with rubber bands.
And do your pull-ups on rings not on a fixed bar.
Ok, thanks for the info.
 

Snowman

Level 6 Valued Member
Oh, @mprevost and @offwidth reminded me, early on I did use finger extensor bands as well. That should have been my first suggestion. They definitely helped, by which I mean they made it tolerable enough to keep training, whereas otherwise I probably would have had to stop altogether. Which I probably should have done anyways...

As far as it coming back, I'm doing quite a bit of snatching again (after adjusting my technique) and haven't had any issues for about two months.

My suggestion is to start with the lowest hanging fruit first. Finger extensor bands are cheap, cortisone shots and large quantities of beef are less so ;)
 

mprevost

Level 6 Valued Member
Medial epichondylitis.....sounds like what you have. I have had it. Lasted a long time. Check your form when you are doing pullps or chinups. If your elbows flare out, even just a little bit, it places more stress on that area, causing tendinitis. People tend to flare out their elbows to change the grip emphasis if their grip is too weak. I do this on my left side due to some weakness from nerve damage. If I am very careful to keep my forearms vertical, I can get away with doing lots of pullups. If not, only one workout is all it takes to bring the tendinitis back. It is hard to diagnosis this without seeing you in person but the solution for most people is rest, then stronger grip, along with impeccable pullup or chinup form (elbows vertical, no flaring of elbows). You can see if you can do pullups/chinups with wrist wraps for a while to reduce the stress.
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
@mprevost
Have you heard or had any experience in doing pull-ups utilizing elbow loops? I've read that it's a viable option for those with dodgy elbows...
 

LukeV

Level 5 Valued Member
I had Medial epichondylitis (aka Golfer's Elbow) on and off for years and pull ups and chin ups were particularly susceptible. My advice is do NOT try and exercise through the pain - repeated aggravation easily turns it into a chronic condition (as it did with me and ended up taking over 12 months to heal). Stop what you are doing immediately when you experience the pain.

Explore for forms of exercise that don't trigger the condition (eg I found I could do pull ups and chin ups but had to stop with my eyes level with the bar - it was the tightness of the elbow at the top, when the eyes went over the bar, that was causing the issue).

I can do full ROM pull ups and chin ups now but take care to fully recover after each bout - I do not attempt the exercise while there is any residual elbow soreness from the previous attempt.

If you are susceptible to tendinitis in this area then focus on doing the minimum required and nothing more (eg if you only have to do three to pass then don't even try four). And you may greatly benefit from a frank discussion with a Marine PT. I suspect they will see this a lot
 
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Ian2000

Level 1 Valued Member
Thanks for all the help!
I especially heeded @LukeV advice and stopped immediately, I am recovering from it as of now and it does not hurt much anymore. I will cease to do the exercises that hurt it until the 15th as my doctor recommended.
My main concern is that it could be all the pressure in the pull ups is going to my forearm not my lats and that is the issue, any input on that?
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
I am not sure what an elbow loop is.
It's two sets of slings that you attach to a standard pull-up bar. You insert your elbows into the loops and initiate the pull from the lats. You don't grab onto the bar, but rather let your hands and forearms slide against the loops for stability. I heard about it from a competitive gymnast.
 

LukeV

Level 5 Valued Member
The best advice on shoulder and elbow tendinitis I ever received came from mountain climbers but I imagine gymnasts would know all about it too. This advice is summarised here:

(1) Don't aggravate the injury. Never try and work through the pain. As soon as you feel it stop what you are doing.
(2) Liberal use of anti-inflammatories. Doesn't have to be prescription but talk to your doctor about taking higher doses of OTC meds than might be recommended on the packet (eg my doc was very comfortable about doubling the dose for a couple of weeks)
(3) Total rest is unnecessary and may be counter-productive. Look for alternative forms of exercise that don't cause pain. This might be bands, lighter weight, partial ROM etc
(4) Return to the 'offending' exercise when there are no symptoms. Pay strict attention to form (get some advice as poor form can be a contributor in the first place). Start light and build up over successive workouts, remembering (1). Fully rest between workouts, ensuring no residual soreness in the joint
 
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mprevost

Level 6 Valued Member
It's two sets of slings that you attach to a standard pull-up bar. You insert your elbows into the loops and initiate the pull from the lats. You don't grab onto the bar, but rather let your hands and forearms slide against the loops for stability. I heard about it from a competitive gymnast.
Sounds like a good temp solution for someone with tendinitis. Thanks for the info.
 

Smile-n-Nod

Level 5 Valued Member
I developed a case of tennis elbow (tendinitis) about a year ago while learning to do kettlebells cleans.

This video:


gave me a lot of advise that helped to mitigate the discomfort.

Basically, it taught me to massage my forearm when the tendinitis bothered me. It took about six months for the tendinitis to almost go away. I have been nearly pain free for about six months, but I still feel a tiny twinge occasionally when I perform one-hand swings.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
Only thing I can add to the above advice - ice. In addition to anti-inflamatories get an ice bag and ice the offending area every evening and shortly after exercise.

My tendonitis still acts up on occasion, I just don't let it get progressively worse. Overdoing my grip work is a surefire way to aggravate it.

Lifting straps might be a possible adjunct to your pull ups till the tendons catch up to the demands.
 
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