We had a Crossfit coach in his mid-20s come to us recently complaining about left elbow hurts when pressing overhead and that had been worsening over several weeks.
He felt pain with most pulling movements, especially pull-ups, and with some overhead push/press movements. In addition, he had a hard time keeping his shoulders in a stable position.
We evaluated him and found that while he had full range of motion in his arm joints, there were several issues happening, including nerve ‘tightness’ in his left arm, a weak left scapula, and the elbow pain when bending and straightening the arm.
Then we got to work. We treated the nerve tension by manually focusing on the left neck and shoulder, helped ‘re-educate’ his neural pathways in his scapula, and made him do his homework, which included custom-made videos to guide him.
Did he do his homework?
He did. Within a couple of weeks he hit a personal record on the snatch (a difficult Olympic lifting movement) by virtue of his improved elbow and shoulder stability.
So what was wrong?
The left elbow pain had nothing to do with his elbow but instead came from poor scapular stability and increased nerve ‘tightness’ at his neck and shoulder. The takeaway is that it’s very important to check upstream and downstream from the source of pain. Treating the whole person is the way to get to the root of the problem!