Can't Straighten Arm

When a person is involved in weightlifting or strength training for extended periods, it can lead to discomfort on muscle. The mobility can also reduce, thus causing a problem in the exercise regime. There are various conditions where you will find that you can't straighten arm due to severe pains, which prevents you from carrying out normal daily functions. To find out the possible cause of this problem, you can relieve the discomfort and take some preventive measures.

Can't Straighten Arm—Why?

1. Muscles Breakdown

There is microscopic breakdown of activated muscles during resistance weightlifting training. A theory for muscle contraction called the sliding filament theory states that during contraction or movement, the muscle fibers overlap and pull against each other. If the activity is of low intensity like walking, these fibers will slide back and forth easily. However, during weightlifting there is increased effort, which also increases the friction between the active muscles. Due to the increased friction between the muscles, the actin and myosin, which are present in the muscle fibers, tear away from the outer side of the various muscle fibers.

2. Tennis Elbow

As a kind of tendinitis, tennis elbow can lead to pain in arm and elbow. It is a type of inflammation of tendons, which are bands formed from tough tissue connecting the muscles to the bone. You will find that you can't straighten arm in this case, or do it with difficulty.

Tennis elbow can make you experience tenderness and pain on bony knob on the outside of your elbow. Because the injured tendon connects to the bones at this knob, the pain can spread to the upper and lower parts of the arm. Even though the cause of the pain is at the elbow, you will experience pain when performing these following activities:

  • Lifting, shaking hands, straightening the wrist
  • Raising hands, opening doors, making a fist
  • Gripping an object

A thorough examination will help in diagnosis of the tennis elbow. It will locate the pain by flexing the arm, elbow and wrist. Sometimes, X-rays or MRI scans will be required to confirm the diagnosis, ruling out other conditions.

3. Other Causes

If you can't straighten arm, not because the above causes, sometimes there can be a loose body present in the joint, which does not allow full extension of the arm. You may also have neuromuscular disorders (with certain symptoms) or tearing in the tendons (which is quite painful). If it is bothersome for your daily movement, you should get checked by an orthopedic surgeon with some scans done.

Can't Straighten Arm—How Can I Relieve This Condition?

Elbow joint responds well to stretching which is slow and gentle. If you try aggressive movements, it can result in more inflammation of the elbows and further reduction in the range of movement. Given below are some measures you can try when you can't straighten your arm.

1. Do Physical Exercise

Some physical exercise can help to relive the condition. Here are some exercises you can try with using slow and gentle movements:

  • ŸLie on the floor on your back and place a small pillow under your forearm, so that it is slightly stretched. Ensure that the shoulder is not lifted above the ground while doing so. Adjust the forearm support, if required.
  • Let the elbow remain in the extension rest for around 10 – 15 minutes, while gently pressing the forearm in to the pillow every minute for 10 seconds. You can contract your triceps for doing this.
  • As the range of motion increases, you can start reducing the support used under the forearm. The stretch exerted on the forearm in this motion should be 1 or 2 on a scale of 10. If you feel the stretch is too much, you should adjust the pillow placed under the forearm, helping with a better flexion.

2. Treat Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow usually resolves naturally with patience, it just requires a lot of rest to quicken the healing process. Meanwhile you can try the following remedies or treatment to speed up the healing process:

  • Use ice. Placing ice packs on the elbow helps in reducing the swelling and the pain. You should do it for 20-30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours. Continue doing this for 2-3 days or you can stick to this method till the pain is gone.
  • Elbow strap. You can apply an elbow strap which will help in protecting the tendon from further damage and strain.
  • NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin will help to deal with the swelling and the pain. However, since they can cause side effects like bleeding and ulcers, you need to use them sparingly and consult your doctor.
  • Physical therapy. You can also turn to physical therapy to help with strengthening and stretching the muscles.
  • Injections of steroids or painkillers can be given to the site, which helps in relieving the pain and swelling temporarily.
  • Surgery: If the symptoms persist for 2-4 months, a surgery might be required. Surgery involves removing the damaged tendon and repairing the remaining portion. Almost 50% of people suffering from tennis elbow will require surgery, and successful rate can be up to 85-90% of the cases.

Precautions and Tips

  • The best way to prevent an injury is to know your limit and listen to your body. If any pain is felt in the elbow during any activity, stop that and take a rest.
  • Take the right equipment, like tennis racket, golf club, etc. Get your technique corrected, keep the shoulders relaxed, never rush into anything, and try to keep movements smooth.
  • Do some warming up exercises and stretches before any activity which requires you to use the elbow or arms. Use ice pack after the exercise.
  • Make an appropriate weekly routine to your age and weight. It could be a full body workout with a rest day in between, or you could work on different body parts every day.

Best Stretches to Do After Weight Lifting

Doing some stretches after weight lifting can help the muscles to recover from weightlifting process, prevent injuries and allows for wider range of movement. Just make the post-stretch a routine of your program. Here we give some of the best stretches you should try to avoid the sensation of can't straighten arm.

1.Biceps Stretch

  • With standing in your natural posture, clasp both of your hands with fingers crossed behind your back.
  • Then make arms straight and turn your palms downwards.
  • Move your arms upwards, hold for about 20-30 seconds and you will have the feeling of stretch in the biceps.
  • ŸIf you don't, you can slowly push your arms back and stretch them. You can do this till you feel a slight stretch in the arms.

2. Triceps Stretch

  • Stand with your feet apart, with toes pointed forward and knees kept slightly bent.
  • Bring the right arm straight up by the ear; bend it at the elbow, so that the hand is behind the back at the left shoulder.
  • Touch the shoulder blade with the fingers of the right hand. For your left hand, gently grab at the elbow of the right hand.
  • Slightly pull on the right elbow till you feel the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat this process for the left arm.

3. Shoulder Stretches

  • Stand with your feet kept hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Bending the right arm at the elbow, keep it extended across the chest.
  • Place the left hand behind the elbow, so that it supports the right arm while stretching.
  • The stretch will be felt in the right arm and shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with other hand.

4. Wrists & Forearms Stretches

  • Keeping your palm up, extend your arm in front of you. Bend your wrist, so that your hand is pointing towards the floor.
  • Use your other hand to bend your wrist further, gently, so that you feel a stretch in the forearm.
  • Hold for 15 – 30 seconds and repeat. When repeating, you can bend your wrist to the opposite direction.