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Why can't I straighten my arm?

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Joined: 23 Sep 2006
Posts: 1128
Location: Vancouver

PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2019 12:51 am    Post subject: Why can't I straighten my arm? Reply with quote

I recently received the following question:
    My arms don't straighten up to 180° ,it can't. I don't know why. Can I fix it? Is there any exercises that can help me to stretch my arms up to 180°?

Firstly, I assume you are referring to an inability to straighten your arm at the elbow. This is called hypo extension, and you are not alone! I also cannot fully extend my right arm at the elbow (but I can with my left arm.) Usually this is due to the shape of the bones of the elbow joint. However, it could be due to shortness in some of the tissues, but much more rarely. How to tell? What are you feeling when you try to extend the arm fully?

If you tried to force your arm straighter, what seems to stop you? A sense of compression at the back of the elbow indicates that the ulna (the forearm bone that leads towards your little finger) has fully contacted the humerus (the upper arm bone). The ulna has a hook at its end called the olecranon. The humerus has a little “cave” at the end called the olecranon fossa. These fit together when the are is full extended. But, some people have shallow fossae or really big olecranons, or both, and this early contact between the bones prevent the arm from fully straightening. (Some people have very deep fossae or a really small olecranon, or both, and they can hyperextend their elbows, which may or may not be a problem for them.)

However, if you feel only some sense of stretch in the inner part of the elbow or along the biceps, then what is stoping you may be tightness in the muscles, tendons, ligaments or fascia of the upper arm. This tension can be stretched out over time, but bone on bone compression will not change. There is no exercises that will change the shape of your bones. Trying to do so could end up damaging the joint. It would be best to determine what is stopping you and, depending upon the answer, adjust your exercises to fit your reality: accept the limitation if your bones are stopping you or work on lengthening the shortened tissues if tension is stopping you.

I hope this is clear.
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