Could increased time on the bike be causing elbow pain?

The last few weeks I’ve had what feels like a weak elbow. No discomfort most of the time (including when on the bike), but a couple of times a day, when reaching out for something (getting a cup of tea off the bedside table in the morning is a prime example) it feels like I can barely support the weight.

Today it’s got worse, and my elbow is uncomfortable just writing this post on my phone.

Could this be caused just by more time on the road bike than I’ve ever done before, or is it likely I’ve done it somehow else?

The other day I put a shorter and taller stem on to see if that would help, but it’s not, or not yet anyway.

Anyone experience similar, is this a known thing? Unless there’s some clear answers here I’ll go and talk to a physio this week and see what he thinks…

I developed “tennis elbow” and couldn’t figure out why, but I noticed that it really flared up when I did long rides. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was getting my annual fit updates with my new fitter (he had done my TT bike, but not road bike previously) and his first comment when he saw me on the road bike was that I was too stretched out. He pulled things in (mostly saddle and bar angle adjustments) and over the last few weeks the tennis elbow has all but disappeared.

This happens to me once I get back in the saddle after a time away. For me, it goes away.

I have elbow issues on the bike, but I am also a rock climber, so that’s the real cause, and the bike just irritates it. Have you been doing any strength training? Pullups? Those sorts of things can definitely cause tendinitis of the elbow. Often elbow pain is the result of muscle imbalance in the forearms. You may also be over-gripping the bars when working hard. Listen to @chad workout text advice about relaxing any upper body muscles. Also, I’ve found that rotating my hoods slightly inwards so my wrists sit straight makes a big comfort difference. My bike fitter had me sit on the bike with my eyes closed, she loosened the hoods, and had me just rotate them until they felt natural, and then locked them into place. Most cyclists have their hoods mounted straight, which puts your wrists into dangerous and uncomfortable extension.
Is the pain medial (gofer’s elbow) or lateral (tennis elbow)? I’ve used this program to great effect for medial pain
If the pain is lateral, you just do the hammer exercise the opposite way, so the hammer head is arcing towards the centre of your body rather than away, if that makes sense.

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Do you have pain also, or weakness without pain? I’ve had the former, but not had the latter.

I’ve have had both tennis and golfers elbow from a combo of weightlifting, climbing and riding the bike. Some good suggestions in the earlier posts on how to address these.

If weakness without pain, not sure what the cause of this might be.

I HAD been doing strength training, but stopped before Christmas and haven’t done any at all in the last 3 weeks. The pain started approximately when I stopped, and is partly why I stopped. I wasn’t doing any pull ups but hanging knee raises, bench press and weighted pressups, so any of those could have caused it tbh.

I’ve also been throwing frisbee/sticks for our dog a lot in the months leading up to the pain, but I’m trying not to do much of that now, or just thowing it gently instead of trying to hoy it as far as I possibly can!

As for the hoods - I’m not training for any sort of road riding, so when I’m on the trainer I tend to be on the tops the whole time - I’m never training an aero position or similar, because I simply don’t care about it. I’d say if I’m on the trainer for an hour I spend about 20 minutes sat upright, hands off, 20 minutes holding the tops, and 20 minutes closed-fist resting my fists against the bars… (so as to be very slightly more upright than holding the tops) which is maybe unusual, I’m sure!

The pain is lateral, not medial.

I wish I knew for certain what the cause was - whether it was strength training over a month ago, or stick/frisbee throwing, or if it’s time on the bike. Ho hum!

Yeah, elbow pain is tricky. It seems to be much like knee pain in that it is often caused by something further down the chain, pulling against the attachment points at the elbow. Sort of like how tight glutes pull everything out of alignment and you think you’ve got a knee issue, when really you have a glute issue.
In my experience, the most important things to help have been forearm stretches like in the article I sent you, and the hammer exercise. That one is really remarkably effective both for rehab and pre-hab.
This is another really good article that goes into the concept of upstream and downstream causes of pain and some treatment ideas. The podcast linked in the article is worth a listen as well.

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