Our arms are constantly used and engaged in various tasks and physical exercises that put them at the maximum risk of injury. One such commonly occurring injury is the Tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is an injury of the connective tissues between your forearm muscles and elbows, causing pain on the outward side of the elbow.
Tennis elbow degenerates the tendons that extend and pull your wrists and turn your forearms. Thus in tennis elbow, flexion, and extension motion cause difficulty and pain. Fortunately, you won’t be needing surgery for tennis elbow. Non-invasive physical exercise-based interventions like yoga can easily help you heal your forearm tendons.
Can I Do Yoga with Tennis Elbow?
As long as you’re able to hold a pose comfortably with no pressure on your arms joints, yoga is totally fine to practice in tennis elbow. You may prevent the hyperextension of the arm by transferring the pressure coming on to your joints and tendons to other complementary body parts.
For example, while coming into downward-facing dog pose press hands evenly at all corners and grip the mat with fingers, then try to hold the pose on your legs (with almost zero pressure on your hands). It can heal the tennis elbow and, at the same time, strengthen joint muscles.
The benefits of yoga for tennis elbow are multifaceted. It rests, nourishes, and heals your arm muscles. The yoga asanas for tennis elbow, also improve your nerve functions for better muscle movements and your body awareness for maintaining proper arm and wrist movement.
You can continue to practice the yoga poses for tennis elbow, even after the healing process. This will help you increase the strength, flexibility, and agility of your muscles, which will avoid future injuries. The yoga techniques will mostly include stretches and twists of varying intensity and pull-angle. Combining the benefits of different poses, yoga will help you promptly fix your elbow.
Who is at the risk of Tennis elbow?
Now since the bruised tendon is the one that controls your wrist extensions and arm rotations, naturally, activities with over-utilization of these motions put you at the risk of Tennis elbow.
As ironic as it may be, Golfers suffer more from Tennis elbow, than actual tennis players. So obviously you don’t have to be a Tennis player to have Tennis elbow. You can be any sportsperson, or an athlete, artist or performer with physically hyper-active livelihood, and have a Tennis elbow. Professions involving a lot of heavy lifting, or even typing, can cause Tennis elbow.
Yoga Exercises for Tennis Elbow Relief
Now whilst some poses will fit perfectly to heal your Tennis elbow, some poses will need to be modified to suit your purpose. However, it is advisable that you try the yoga poses, using armbands or elbow pads.
1. Plank Pose – Kumbhakasana
Plank pose is a pretty simple pose and is great for healing your overall upper body. However, remember, in the case of tennis elbow, don’t hold this pose for a longer duration. The muscle tendons involved in the Tennis elbow are engaged very subtly in the plank pose. This subtle involvement is just enough to exercise them but over-use them.
- Get down on all fours
- Keep your wrists right below your shoulders.
- Keep your legs almost joined and knees below your hips.
- Lift your knees off the floor, Raise up your buttocks.
- Put your body and legs in one straight line, and put up your body on just your wrists and toes.
- Keep your shoulders pressed down, look in front.
- Breathe and Hold your pose for 20-30 seconds.
You can reduce and increase the intensity of this pose according to your comfort level. In order to increase the intensity, elevate your legs on a platform. And in order to reduce, elevate your hands.
2. Dolphin Plank – Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana
Dolphin Plank is a good way to rest whilst keeping your forearm muscles active. This pose gives a pretty similar effect to that of a plank pose, but at a different angle and less intensity. The Dolphin plank puts dedicated stretch on the rear part of the muscle involved in the Tennis elbow.
- Get down on all fours.
- Keep your wrists right below your shoulders.
- Keep your legs almost joined and knees below your hips.
- Now unlike raising up like in plank, come down onto your elbows.
- Stretch out your legs and balance them on your toes
- Rest on your forearms. Your elbow should be below your shoulders.
- Your body and legs in one line.
- Breathe and hold the pose for 30 seconds.
You can combine normal plank and dolphin plank, and make it a repetitive routine by switching between both poses.
3. Four-limbed Staff Pose
Four limb staff pose, or chaturanga dandasana, is a great pose to train your muscles for arm stretch and wrist extension at the same time. This pose will be a good follow-up pose, post-healing. Also, ensure that you try this pose only after developing a comfort level with the previous two poses.
- Start by getting down on all fours.
- Get to a normal plank pose.
- Slowly put a bend in your elbow, and create a fold to bring down your body.
- Keep lowering your body, till your arms are about 45 degrees to the ground, and your biceps and triceps almost parallel to the ground.
- Lock your pose here.
- Look in front and breathe.
- Hold the pose for 10 seconds.
You can increase and decrease the difficulty level of this pose just like the regular plank pose. By either elevating your legs or hands.
4. Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana
Cobra pose is excellent for your arm and wrist muscles, joints, and nerves. It gives both a dynamic and static stretch. Practicing it will help you develop synchronization between your wrists and elbows. And, the pose will also train your nerves to distribute even weight on both ends of the arm muscles.
- Lie on the front of your body.
- Place your hands by the sides of your chest.
- Keep your legs hip-width apart.
- Press against the ground, an arch up your upper body, by straightening your hands.
- Arch up till you can see straight in front and your chest faces the front as well.
- Keep your pelvis touched to the ground.
- Keep your shoulders free and pressed down, and chest puffed out.
- Keep the arch in your spine even.
- Breathe and hold the pose for 5-7 breaths.
Like the variation of the plank pose and dolphin plank, you can also practice an elbow resting variation of the cobra pose, which is the sphinx pose. You can arch up by placing your entire forearm, from your elbows, on the ground.
5. Down dog to up dog
Down dog to up dog is a good vinyasa of static and dynamic stretches, that exercises your nerves and muscles in multiple motions. This chain of two poses will include stretching, contraction, flexing, and rotation of all your hand muscles. You promptly feel more strength and flexibility generating in your hands and upper body.
- Get down on all fours, your hands and knees.
- Push backward and upward with your buttocks, stretching your hands and upper body, and straightening your legs.
- Plant your heels back on the ground, and push your chest down towards the ground, increasing your lumbar curve.
- Hold your pose here for 5 breaths.
- Now dip forward and downward to come into a four-limbed staff pose.
- From here rise up, arching your upper body upward and pressing your pelvis downward, like in cobra.
- Straighten your hands, press down your shoulders, open up your chest in front.
- Look in front and breathe.
- Unlike cobra, your lower body will also be off the floor.
- Hold this pose for 5 breaths and repeat the sequence thrice
Since the focus of our routine is on your arms and wrists, you can keep a slight bend in your knees during downward dog, and keep your heels lifted off the ground. On the upward dog, you can rest your knees on the ground.
6. Wrist Rotations and Arm Stretch in Mountain Pose
Mountain pose in general is a holistic pose, that involves improved nervous and circulatory functions, and posture correction. However, you can build on these benefits and add a dedicated arm stretch and wrist rotation movement to it.
- Stand straight with your arms by the sides of your body.
- Keep your spine erect, head pressed back in line of your hip, and shoulders down.
- Keep your legs hip-width wide, and evenly distribute your weight on both legs.
- Do not wobble.
- Raise your hands Infront and extend them straight.
- Close your hands in a fist, and rotate your wrists in clockwise and counterclockwise motion.
- Take 10 rotations on each side.
- Return to regular mountain pose.
- Now bend from your torso to your right, slowly allowing your muscles to engage in your back.
- Keep your hands straight and increase the bend in your torso to reach your fingers toward your right knee.
- As you continue to go down, the triceps in your right hand and right forearm muscles will engage as well.
- Repeat the same on your left side.
- Do the stretch 10 times on each side
You can Brainstorm different hand stretches and rotational movements while standing in mountain pose. As long as they are free hand and don’t hurt.
7. Cow Face Pose – Gomukhasana
Cow Face Pose increases the range of motion in your arm muscles. The pose will also reduce your chances of future injury, besides healing the current one. The cow Face Pose will require significant body awareness, that will perfect your arm and wrist movements.
- Sit in a staff pose
- Bend and fold up your right leg.
- Take your left foot from under your right leg, bring it to your right side, and place your left heel against your right sitting bone.
- Now take your right leg to your left side, over your left leg, fold and stack up your right knee on top of your left knee, and place your right heel against your left sitting bone.
- Keep your upper body straight.
- Raise your right hand overhead, fold at your elbow and take your right hand in front of the middle of your shoulder blades.
- Take your left hand from the left side of your abdomen and reach for your right hand.
- Clasp your hands together in front of the middle of your shoulder blades.
- Hold the pose for 5-7 breaths.
- Repeat the pose by taking your left leg over your right, and changing your hands accordingly.
If your hands are not getting into a clasp, don’t force it. You might worsen your pain. Simply touching the tip of your fingers will suffice.
8. Wide-legged forward bend with twist
Forward bends are good for your legs and are effective light-intensive hand stretches. Adding a little twist in your torso and extending out with your arms, will increase the forearm stretch; and quite beneficial in case of Tennis Elbow.
- Stand wide-legged with a gap of 3-4 feet
- Bend forward from your groin and touch the floor with your hands.
- Open your hands, extending them outward. Place each hand on the foot of its respective side.
- Now twist your torso to your right to touch your right foot with your left hand.
- Return to center position, and again twist to your left to touch your left foot with your right hand.
- Repeat this sequence for 10 times.
Don’t rush to finish the rotations. Hurried twists in forward bend will injure your back muscles. Keep the torso twists slow and steady. Also don’t push to touch your opposite foot. Go only as far as you comfortably can.
Measures to Prevent
Yoga is an excellent way to heal your Tennis Elbow, but the question is, why did you need to heal an injury when it could have been prevented in the first place. And that too using yoga itself. Yoga poses, especially the ones increasing your body awareness will come in particularly handy. Such yoga practices will increase your mindfulness and help you stay focused on your physical activities.
You will avoid mistakes, and you will be aware of the posture your arms and wrists are taking during an activity. This will help you stay vigilant on all potential moments of minute injuries. However there are certain pointers you can keep in mind throughout your daily routine, that will help you avoid Tennis elbow:
- Carry equal weights on both hands. And if carrying heavyweight (which isn’t suggested) in a single hand, switch hands repeatedly.
- Remember to sleep in proper posture.
- If you have a desk job, Adjust your sitting height such that your forearms are parallel to the floor. Also, keep your wrists straight.
- If you’re involved in other physical activities involving your hands use armbands, and elbow and wrist grips.
- Do not ignore small bruises, tend to them with cooling pads, free hands stretch, and rotational movements.
- If you have a labor-intensive profession, time your tasks with even periods of rest.
- When carrying heavy load avoid overextension and rotation of joints. And put your entire body into managing the load weight, instead of letting your hands do all the heavy lifting.
Exercises to avoid in Tennis Elbow
You must have known by now, that not all arm exercises are good for the condition. It’s not just about the stretch, but also the angle and degree of it. Now whilst the planks are good for you with Tennis elbow, push-ups will be harmful. Chin Ups and bench presses are also a red flag. All weight lifting exercises, including, dumbbell curls and barbell extensions are a bad idea. And finally, exercises including handstands and balancing body weight on your hands, are harmful.
Tennis elbow is caused by repeated incorrect movement of your arms and wrists. Thus this condition is an accumulation of many minutes of wear and tear. This makes the healing of the tennis elbow a time-consuming process. However, yoga exercises are good at tackling such comprehensive physiological injuries. One might say, in ancient times when physical tasks were in abundance, yoga was designed to heal and avoid extensive physical injuries.