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Elbow pain

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#1 Abeck



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Posted 30 July 2012 - 08:59 AM

Recently developed an ache in my right elbow. Does this bother everyone or is there some hammer technique I am missing which might correct this? A while back I had a shoulder issue but it went away when I lowered my anvil. Suggestions appreciated.

#2 ThomasPowers


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Posted 30 July 2012 - 10:22 AM

Google "blacksmith's elbow" for a large number of suggestions HOWEVER DON'T TRY TO "WORK THROUGH IT" as that makes it worse and result in needing surgery!
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#3 jcornell


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Posted 30 July 2012 - 10:50 AM

I'm not a doctor - but when I've had pain in the elbow, a "tennis elbow" strap has been very helpful.

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#4 beth



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Posted 30 July 2012 - 11:17 AM

thomas is right dont work it, rest it . . i get it when my hammer is too heavy and it makes my elbow kick out to lift it for any length of time - think its tendons. if your arms not tucked in that may be the reason? goes quite quick if you rest it :)

#5 teenylittlemetalguy


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Posted 30 July 2012 - 11:26 AM

When I started I also had an issue like that, I could not even lift a 1lb hammer it got so bad. I rested a week or two and then I watched Hofi's hammer technique video and cut my handle short like his. I used that system for a few months and then started adding length to my handles. No problem now even with a long handle.
It was a little frustrating using the short handle at first as trying to move larger stock is difficult that way. I focused on small projects (less than 1/2") for a while.
Good luck with it.
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#6 pete46


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Posted 30 July 2012 - 01:42 PM

Check the anvil rebound, it might not be giving the hammer back like a good anvil will.
I used a russian pattern anvil and it almost wrecked my elbow! I now have a Haybudden & it's sooo much better.
Oh! relax your grip. Ihope this helps
Don't put your thumb on top of the handle while striking.
Heat it up... and beat the FIRE out of it!

#7 robert hanford

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 03:39 PM

If your pain is tennis elbow, please do look at some of the latest treatment- google eccentric exercise and tennis elbow. Eccentric exercise is where you are stressing a muscle, but also lengthening it at the same time. There is a new therapy that is very cheap and is showing great promise. You might also try googling tennis elbow and the New York times blog. This therapy has helped me very much. I am a violinist, table tennis player, and amateur blacksmith, so I have had issues with tennis elbow over the years. This therapy uses a cheap tool called the flex bar, and I was able to find one at a physical therapy place right away. YouTube has some videos for using the flex bar as well. It has helped me very much.
Good luck!

#8 Glenn



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Posted 30 July 2012 - 04:12 PM

Check your body vs anvil alignment.

Place the hammer on the face of the anvil where it is used most. Now walk up to the anvil so you can just slide your hand over the hammer handle. You body (belly button) should be a half step to the side of the hammer and the hammer should be plum to a line dropped from the outside of the shoulder (or about) to the hammer handle.

In other words, your hammer, wrist, fore arm, arm and shoulder should be all in the same plane.

If someone questions your standards, they are not high enough.

Do not build a box, that way you do not have to think outside the box.

#9 Borntoolate


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Posted 30 July 2012 - 06:57 PM

When I started blacksmithing I had Tennis elbow in my right arm. I had went to the "bone and Joint Clinic" here locally and they gave me an Epipoint Elbow strap.

I did not watch this video but it contains the strap I used.

It's a bit more than a regular strap. They are very expensive unless you shop around. BUt it instantly gave some relief to what I would say was a mild form of Tennis elbow. Regardless I wore it for almost a year or more. BUt, during that time I took up blacksmithing.

Because I was having some elbow trouble I looked into hammer techniques a good bit. Didn't want to make things worse.

I actually believe that good hammer technigue (which I hope I have) actually helped to strengthen muscles and so forth that helped me get over and so far keep away any pain in my right arm. NOw I must also say that my Tennis Elbow was mild to start with AND I wore this thing a long time... Several months before I took up Bklacksmithing. I wore the thing so longs because a friend of mine had one and said he stopped wearing it too soon and had to go to surgery. I wanted to avoid that. I now feel that Tennis Elbow in my Right arm is a thing of the past. I was using a 3 lb hammer back them and now use something close to a 4 lb hammer that Brian and I made.

After startng Blacksmthing and using tongs and so forth I actually developed some TE in my left arm. Propably gripping tongs to tight or something. I moved my elbow strap over to my left and wore it for about 6 months. In other words I wore it both times even when I felt ok. Now, I don't feel that my left arm is as strong or as resilient as my right but it is good. I also feel that Hammering properly can actually keep tennis elbow away. I am no doctor so it is only opinion.

Key points I think for good hammering and avoiding TE are:
  • Relax. Don't grip tight or grit your teeth. If you are doing this then just slowdown, relax and find your speed.
  • Guide the hammer down and let the weight do the work not your arm.
  • Hit the piece on the anvil solidly so there is no skittering of the hammer at contact. If there is you have to grip tight to keep both the hammer and the workpiece from flying off. This is bad technigue. This will hurt you in more ways than one.
  • Catch the rebound momentum to bring the hammer up because that should be where you expend most of your actual effort (lifting not hammering down)
  • Lift high and let it fall.
  • I think a heavier hammer is better than a light one. I think you can grip it lighter and let it drop. A light hammer will wear you out.
  • I do find that heavier work or some serious drawing out requires a bit more than just letting the hammer fall. BUt I think this too can be done as above. Relax. Let the hammer do most of the work and your body do as little as possible. This should be your goal.
I am still a novice in my opinion. Though I have worked through TE. But if anything here needs correcting by those more senior or more knowledgable please correct it.

PS - I am actually a very good speller but I am a very bad typert

#10 stuarthesmith


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Posted 30 July 2012 - 08:48 PM

Pete46, I absolutely disagree with u on thumb position. Please read the thread "thumbs up, thumbs down".
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#11 Twgore



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Posted 30 July 2012 - 09:06 PM

Ask 5 people about this and you will get 5 different answers. Fwiw I have developed some elbow pain from hammering and other work. I have tried ice heat straps braces, all the general advise. However, the most relief I have experienced has come from working my injured arm with a better technique, and using exercises (both those mentioned above as well as plain weight lifting). This has worked for me when nothing else has. You can google tendonitis exercises fr some great techniques. Good luck!


#12 chyancarrek


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Posted 30 July 2012 - 09:43 PM


If it's bothering you to the point you're worried, go to the doctor. Going to a forum to get medical suggestions only puts you in a place to hear things that only relate to the person who posted it. Go get your own professional diagnosis.

I've had chronic tennis/blacksmith/ditchdiggers/factory worker/ (insert your activity here) elbow in both arms for over 20 years and it gets debilitating if I don't manage it properly. I've been around the block with this issue and have lots of stories to tell but what my doctor and physical therapist advised was meant for me, not anyone else.

A good example is how some of the posters above are advocating the use of the restrictor straps. Both my doctor and physical therapist forbid me to use them. I was told to NEVER wear one while I was working as a way of circumventing the pain. They lead to incomplete healing and an ongoing aggravation of the condition because they provide relief during inappropriate levels of activity.

OTOH, what they're saying above about technique is spot on and will do more to turn a mild case around than any mechanical device.

If smithing is your hobby, it makes no sense to cripple yourself for it.

If it's how you're making your living, take care of your body and get professional advice or you're not going to be making that living for long.

Either way I hope you get it turned around and back to enjoying pounding iron!
Just Grind To The Intent

#13 metalmangeler


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Posted 31 July 2012 - 01:46 AM

My elbow stopped bothering me after I got a power hammer. You may use this to help convince your wife of this NEED. :)
People who spell the same as most others may lack creativity.


#14 glen56


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Posted 31 July 2012 - 05:16 AM

yes lot of good advice above ,things effecting me are lumps forming in the hammer hand (not painful maybe the onset of arthrites,maybe not )mainly shoulder probs ,bought up all anvils and swage blocks to save bending the back ,learnt to tilt the head in case of a big miss strike ,hammers go over past in a millie second ,anybody heard of the use of krill oil as an aid against arthries ,glen

#15 Don A

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 07:41 AM

Avoid turning 40. I am seven years past now and not having much luck with it.

#16 ThomasPowers


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Posted 31 July 2012 - 08:40 AM

Using a proper sized hammer is important. I have several short handled sledges and my apprentice chose to work with one all day at a demo in spite of my strongly put advice! The next day he couldn't hammer at all and it was several weeks before he was comfortable at the forge---all from wanting to show off and impress the onlookers.

Surviving your foolish youth and *still* being able to work is a good thing! (I warned him from my past experience...!)
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#17 pete46


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Posted 31 July 2012 - 09:42 AM

Stewart, I took my thumb off the top of the handle[while stricking]& the pain stopped.
We are all different,I just go with what works for me.
Heat it up... and beat the FIRE out of it!

#18 Quenchcrack


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Posted 02 August 2012 - 12:39 PM

You may be hyper-extending your elbow. I was using a 3 Lb hammer to thin out some plate and was standing away from the anvil to get a big swing radius. I was thinking that would increase the force of the hammer on the metal. The real result was to pull my elbow ligaments to the point I got tennis elbow and a full YEAR of no smithing. Learn proper hammer techniques.

#19 matei campan

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 03:22 PM

actually, blacksmithing with heavier hammers (within reasonable) helped me trough a period of TE caught when I worked on copper sheet with light hammers which did me very bad. hammering with light hammers could still affect my elbow and wrist, so even for sheet hammering i started to use heavier hammers. as said above, heavier hammers tend to work by themselves. your job is almost just to guide them.

#20 Jonny Foreigner

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 04:12 PM

Avoid turning 40. I am seven years past now and not having much luck with it.

Agreed on that one. It all changes at that point unless you are very lucky. I have constant elbow pain and locking finger joints, not caused by blacksmithing as such but most physical work now makes it worse. Visits to the docs are generally a waste of time as 'pills do not sort all ills', rest helps but if one wants/needs to keep using the joints in the same way then learn to live with it.

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