Tendonitis is the inflammation or irritation of a tendon (the attachment of a muscle to bone). Excessive repetitive movements most often cause tendonitis, but it can also be caused by a minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden more serious injury. The symptoms of tendonitis are: pain and stiffness, usually around a joint, which is aggravated by movement. Tendonitis is usually a temporary condition, but may become a recurrent or chronic problem.
The healing of tendonitis occurs in two main stages, acute and subacute. Yoga supports the healing process in both stages by activating the body’s lymphatic system and by improving local circulation. Yoga is best used for healing in the subacute stage of tendonitis, as well as for preventing recurring bouts of tendonitis. For acute tendonitis, rest the injured area for 4-6 days. Do not perform any movements that require strength, aggravate the injury, or produce any pain. Elevating the affected area during the inflammation stage helps to control any swelling thereby reducing the throbbing that often accompanies acute inflammation. Inversion poses will be very helpful to reduce inflammation by activating the lymphatic system, and will also provide elevation if the injury is located in the lower body. After the swelling has subsided (usually after the first 48 to 72 hours), very gentle and slow range of motion movements can be performed, but do not stretch the muscles that trigger the tendonitis pain.
The subacute stage of tendonitis follows and lasts between 1-3 weeks. Gentle stretching is the first step of rehabilitation. Stay focused on the breath and the sensations of the stretch, but do not stretch to the point of pain. The next step is to slowly and gently strengthen the muscles surrounding and attached to the injured tendon. Begin with slow, gentle non-weight bearing movements and gradually increase the amount of motion and number of repetitions. As symptoms resolve, gradually resume using weight-bearing movements. Strengthening the surrounding muscles restores full support to the effected joint and reduces the risk of recurrent tendonitis. An adequate warm-up before and correct posture during yoga is essential in this healing stage of tendonitis.
Once the acute and subacute stages of tendonitis or subsides, preventing recurrences is crucial to avoid developing a chronic condition. Developing conscious use of muscles, correct posture and good alignment as well as reducing repetitive movements are necessary. A regular yoga practice will address all these needs, as well as keep the tendons in good health. Care must be taken in yoga to not push or over stretch that can injure or irritate the tendons.
Tendonitis can sometimes recur with a return to physical activity, and prolonged bouts of this painful condition can lead to a thickening or rupture of the tendon. Thus, if the symptoms of tendonitis reappear, it is essential to return to following the movement guidelines for the acute stage.
A yoga practice should be used to supplement conventional therapy, not replace it. Talk to your doctor if your symptoms do not improve.