Are Elbows Ever Relaxed?


Consider how much we use the elbow joints; constantly in flexion, use, and motion. Our arms are not limp by our sides even when we’re relaxed or asleep. Discomfort in the elbows can often be alleviated simply by opening the well-used muscles above and below the joint. Focusing on the upper arms in this example, so much hypertonicity can sit here, muscles can harden until all tissue pliability seems gone. With all the tension in people’s necks into shoulders, it’s common for that tension to just march down the chain into the upper arms. affecting function and movement of the elbows. 

Applying broad, sweeping strokes along those upper arm muscles down towards the elbows feels great to receive. A surface level opening usually begins right away. As the movement pushing open the tissues flows down into the elbows, you can feel the joint seemingly lighten and expand, both in doing and receiving this work. The mechanics beginning to free up, the joints can feel almost renewed, like years have been shaved off. The massage strokes can start from lighter and move to deeper and slower as the client’s tolerance permits. It’s nice to do this work when the client is face up and down, accessing different angles and planes of the arm without having to put too much demand on moving the shoulder joint into awkward positions. It allows the therapist to gently, thoroughly explore this region, all the way around. Since the upper arms are a smaller area, nerves and blood vessels can be more easily accessed, so being aware of working to your client’s tolerance and remembering sensitive and more exposed spots is important (example: the medial side of the upper arm into the elbow region where so many nerves structurally sit). Opening this area up can create a sense of warmth, as blood moves more freely from the tissue expanding and the muscles regaining a wider movement range. In doing the work, it’s interesting to balance pressure and movement from our own bodies into these small, compact zones. Asking the area to open as we flow forward in our mechanics, applying that movement onto and into the tissue.

Looking at the body as the whole unit that it is, a complete system where all aspects of it affect the economy of the entire environment, we end up with a better understanding of how to support it. Pain or imbalance in any given area of the musculoskeletal system can be both a local issue and a part of a chain of dominos. Thinking about all the muscles that lead into any given joint in the body, if any of these muscles controlling the joint’s movement are too tight, it will create difficulty for the joint.  An example of applying basic and logical concepts of self-care to our bodies with happy, effective results. Wonderful to enjoy the feelings of expansion, warmth, and freedom that come from muscle tissue being restored!


Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2017




I have been licensed and working full time in the massage therapy field since 2001, teaching and writing MT courses since 2006. My experience has led me through working with several different chiropractors, hotel and boutique spas, corporate massage, a climbing gym wellness center, private practice, two different massage schools, one acupuncture/massage college, and my current capacity of working with physical therapy clinics and their patients. And the learning continues…

4 thoughts on “Are Elbows Ever Relaxed?

  1. I love your descriptions of the human body — I can almost imagine the detailed map you must have in your mind, in which structures and layers present themselves like unfolding landscapes. Very cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A wonderful way of describing it! Yes “) it is rather like that, and the map has to grow and be reexamined all the time; the body is too complex. Wonderfully so! Thank you for you kind feedback =))

      Liked by 1 person

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