Tennis elbow, lateral epicondylitis, is a painful injury caused by repetitive stress and strain to the tendons that connect the muscles to the bone at the elbow. The pain is due to tiny tears in the tendons that get inflamed. Performing a variety of non-weight-bearing yoga poses and exercises is one way to treat tennis elbow.
Stretching Away the Pain
Stretching can help ease the pain and reduce the stiffness associated with tennis elbow according to yoga master, B.K.S. Iyengar. An effective yoga stretch is the mountain pose with fingers interlocked. It reduces the tension and improves the flexibility of your forearm muscles and tendons. While standing tall, interlock your fingers, extend your arms and hold them shoulder high. Turn your hands so your palms are facing away from you and straighten your arms. Keep your breathing steady as you slowly lift your hands toward the ceiling as far as you comfortably can. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds, then slowly lower them back to a shoulder-high position. Interlace your fingers so the opposite index finger is on top and repeat.
Strengthening the Muscles
Non-weight-bearing yoga poses can help strengthen the muscles around your elbow with minimal discomfort and pain. One such exercise is the plank performed against a wall. Stand 12 to 18 inches away from a sturdy wall. Extend your arms until your palms are against the wall, shoulder-width apart and shoulder high. Keep your arms straight, then lean toward the wall and push against it for 30 to 60 seconds. You can also start in the plank position, bend your elbows and slowly lean in until your face is 2 or 3 inches from the wall. Pause for a count of two, then slowly push with your hands, straighten your arms and return to the plank position.
Exercise for Prevention
Strong tendons and muscles in the arm can prevent the return of tennis elbow. Arm tensing is an effective exercise that works the muscles above and below the elbow without stressing your limb. Make a fist, tighten your forearm muscles to a low tension, hold it for five seconds, relax, and repeat five times. After working your forearm muscles, focus on your upper arm muscles and repeat the exercise. Repeat the exercise with your left arm. Over time, work your way up to medium and then high tensions.
Iyengar writes that people with health concerns such as heart issues, stress-related headaches, migraines, low blood pressure and insomnia shouldn't do the mountain pose stretch. If you have high blood pressure, he recommends holding the stretch no more than 15 seconds. Until the tennis elbow heals, it's not uncommon to have some discomfort when performing yoga poses. But, if you experience extreme pain, stop. Check with your health care provider before starting a new yoga workout.
- B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health; B.K.S. Iyengar
- Om Gam Yoga: Yoga and Tendonitis in the Shoulders, Elbows and Wrists
- Yoga Journal: Yoga Poses