Tennis Elbow – From Yoga?

I wish to share with you guys about how to prevent tennis elbow from our yoga practice.

 

I started my yoga practice in 2014 and for the past two years, I have been experiencing pain in my outer right elbow. The pain occurs whenever there is a sudden rotation of my right elbow joint eg. turning a door knob, shaking hands and even carrying loads.

 

Being ignorant about the root cause, I disregarded the symptoms and continued practising yoga but the condition worsened as time passed. The elbow became more sensitive to movements with external rotation and felt as though it could snap anytime. It affected my daily routine and of course, the quality of my yoga practice was compromised.  The extreme discomfort triggered my research to find a cure, of which I learnt about the medical term called ‘tennis elbow’. This can be caused by doing the yoga postures wrongly!

 

Tennis elbow is a painful injury caused by repetitive stress and strain to the wrist tendons that connect the muscles to the bone at the elbow. The pain is due to tiny tears in the tendons that get inflamed[1]

You May Experience Pain In Tennis Elbow (Aka Lateral Epicondylitis)[2]:

> on the outside of your upper forearm, just below the bend of your elbow,

> when lifting or bending your arm,

> when gripping small objects, such as a pen, or

> when twisting your forearm, such as opening a jar

 

Wrong Yoga Postures – Hyperextension of Arms

There is a handful of yoga poses that require the use of our arms as support and therefore, it is common for the inexperienced to ‘lock’ their elbows or hyperextend their arms.

Constant HYPEXTENSION of the arms in a yoga pose is highly dangerous because the weight of the body is all dumped on the elbow and wrist, leading to tennis elbow in the long run.

Hyperextension of arms happen in:

How to avoid hyperextended arms?

Side Plank (Vasisthasana)

  • Body weight should not be on: pinkie finger
  • Body weight should be on: Index finger

Reverse Plank (Purvottanasana)

  • Body weight should not be on: Shoulders, elbows, wrists and pelvis joints
  • We should work more on flexibility and core (eg glutes, hamstrings, abs, and lower back).

Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)

  • Body weight should not be on: Elbows, wrists
  • Body weight should be on: More on legs, less on arms

Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

  • Body weight should not be on: Arms, shoulders
  • Body weight should be on: Legs (hip flexors)

Corbra Pose (Bhujangasana)

  • Body weight should not be on: Arms, shoulders
  • Lifting of body should be from: Mid back muscles

 

Since tennis elbow is caused by overuse or repetitive trauma of the wrist extensor muscle tendons, it is important to avoid exercises that include repetitive elbow and wrist flexion/extension activities. Of course, this does not mean that we should rest our arms forever! It just takes time and patience to recover. Other than avoiding hyperextension of the arms, regular massage/wrist exercises can also help to stretch and strengthen the muscles.

 

Understanding the symptoms and treatments for tennis elbow is important because the last thing we want is to let the pain hinder our daily movements and yoga practice. Since September 2017, I began pampering my right arm with lots of massages coupled with strengthening and stretching exercises. The elbow does not ‘snap’ as often now, and I could go up to a headstand with a comfortable grip (yes, it hurt when I had to clench my fingers!).

 

So, to all the lucky ‘pain-free’ yogis out there, please continue to take care of your body. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you and if something is amiss, provide treatments early. For those who suspect that you may have a tennis elbow, it is never too late to kick your bad yoga habits. Start exploring on suitable treatments now!

[1] https://www.livestrong.com/article/385272-yoga-for-tennis-elbow/

[2] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Tennis-elbow/Pages/Introduction.aspx

 

Signing off,

Yeo Pei Qin , PQ

Sep’17 YTTC