Tendonitis is an injury of the tendons near a joint. In pole dancing, this injury affects most commonly the elbow joint or shoulder, however, it can also happen with the knee, wrist, or calf.

This is an unfortunately common injury in the pole dancing community, and with the rise of new studios in recent years, the number of tendonitis and tendon-related injuries have risen as well.


When you start pole dancing, chances are, you’re not used to using a lot of the muscles in your body. Furthermore, when you exercise, you’re probably thinking about a lot of the larger muscles: “I want bigger biceps!” or “I just want toned abs!” but we don’t stop to consider a lot of the smaller support muscles, such as the small rotator cuff muscles, forearm muscles and hand muscles.

These support muscles do more than just support larger muscles – they also help keep everything else in place like our bones and tendons.


Tendonitis – sometimes also spelled tendintis – is an injury where the tendons connecting your muscles to the bone become inflamed, irritated, swollen, or torn[0]. Tendons come in all shapes and sizes, from small tendons in your fingers, to the tendons in your elbow, or your Achilles heel.

You can think of tendons like cords that help your range of movement by connecting your muscles to the bone; without them, your body wouldn’t quite work right. You wouldn’t be able to move almost any of your joints without tendons, and if you could, you wouldn’t be very strong.

Tendonitis is tedious to heal, especially when compared to muscle. This is because there are fewer blood vessels around tendons – they don’t typically need as much oxygen as your muscles might, however, that also means they’re harder to heal after an injury.

What Causes Tendonitis?

Tendonitis is most often caused by repetitive movements that put strain on the area. In other words, you could do something for months and think it’s fine, but if the smaller support muscles aren’t strong enough to support your tendons, you might be putting too much strain on your tendons and you could develop tendonitis.

That’s right – I’m looking at you, split grip taught in beginner classes.

Tendonitis can also occur if there is a sudden serious impact on the joint, such as a fall or car accident.

Even if you were diagnosed with tendonitis after you began pole dancing, your tendonitis might not be pole related at all. Tendonitis can be caused by many things, such as gardening, raking, scrubbing, painting, yarn crafts, or other activities that require small, repetitive movements.

If you develop tendonitis shortly after beginning pole dancing, you might just be adding that little bit of strain that pushes everything over the edge, so the next time you go to clean your counters or go into chair spin, that might be when you start to feel a little twinge.

It’s important to note that you should keep a lot of strain off your injury if you have tendonitis. Adding light weight-bearing exercises in the mid-to-late rehab stage can be beneficial to healing. After the injury fully heals, the small muscles that support the tendons should be exercised to strengthen them and prevent future injury. We talk more about that later on in this article.

Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow

The difference between the two injuries.

This type of injury is the most common in pole dancing. It may be officially diagnosed as Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow) or Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow.)

The main difference between these two is that Tennis Elbow is on the outside of the elbow, while Golfer’s Elbow is on the inside; though pain from either condition may radiate to either side occasionally.

If you have Golfer’s Elbow, you might feel an increase in pain when you flex your wrist, while, with Tennis Elbow, you might feel an increase in pain when you extend your wrist.

Below, we’ll cover a list of potential symptoms for this type of tendonitis:

  • Tenderness or Burning in the Bony Part of Your Elbow

If you press into the bony part of your elbow, you might experience some tenderness while you poke around. The pain is typically close to the bone, making it feel like a hairline fracture in some cases.

  • Pain When Lifting Something or Making a Fist

You can lift something as light as a single subject notebook and still feel pain with Tennis or Golfer’s elbow. You might also feel pain when you press against a door, lift your hair, or grip something round like a coffee cup or the pole.

A tendon injury will temporarily weaken your grip strength, so it’s wise to be careful of holding fragile objects or supporting any weight with your grip.

  • Pain When Raising, Rotating, or Straightening Your Wrist.

You might experience this pain when you brush your hair, pull something out of the fridge, or brush your teeth. This may occur especially if it is weight-bearing in the early stages, such as driving or putting on your seatbelt. You might also feel tension or low aches if you perform these actions without any weight.

  • Pain Radiates into Forearm, Shoulder, or Wrist.

In some cases, pain from the elbow can radiate down into the forearm, shoulder, or wrist. It may feel as though the forearm bone is fractured, or as if there’s a pain that shoots up to your shoulder.

Expected Recovery Time

For Tennis Elbow or Lateral Epicondylitis, many people begin light rehab exercises 3-4 weeks after the initial injury. You can expect the underlying soreness to improve within 6 to 8 weeks. Many people take this time to go back to pole dancing lightly, avoiding moves that might put pressure on their elbows such as Apprentice, Jamilla, Split Grip, or Princess Grip.

Total recovery time for Tennis Elbow, or Lateral Epicondylitis, is 6-12 months. Some cases have been known to persist for 2 years due to reinjury.

Golfer’s Elbow, or Medial Epicondylitis, has a shorter recovery time. Many people begin light rehab exercises 1-2 weeks after the initial injury. You can expect the underlying soreness to improve within 3-6 weeks.

Total recovery time for Golfer’s Elbow is 3-6 months. Some cases have been known to persist for up to 12 months.

Physical Therapy Exercises

Stress Ball Squeeze

For this stretch, you’ll be taking a stress ball, rolled-up face towel, or other squishable object in your hand and squeezing it with all five fingers, hand facing up.

  1. Make a fist around the stress ball.
  2. Gently squeeze the ball in short, 3-5 second bursts.
  3. Repeat 10 times.

Wrist Stretch (Extensor, Flexor)

This exercise is beneficial in getting movement into the forearm muscles. You may find that moving your arm around while you are in these positions feels good.

Extensor Stretch:

  1. Take your injured arm and hold your hand up as if to signal “stop.”
    1. Your wrist should be bent up as far as possible, palm away from you with straight fingers, and a straight elbow.
  2. Take your other hand and cup it across all five fingers.
  3. Press your other hand towards you.
    1. You should feel a stretch in your wrist and down the inside of your forearm.
  4. Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds and then release.

Flexor Stretch:

  1. Take your injured arm and reverse the direction of your hand.
    1. Instead of up, palm away from you, it should be down, palm towards you. Your elbow and fingers should remain straight.
  2. Take your other hand again and cup it against the back of all five fingers.
  3. Press your other hand towards you.
    1. You should feel a stretch in your wrist and down the outside of your forearm.
  4. Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds and then release.

Wrist Curls (Extension, Flexion)

For this stretch, you’ll need a flat surface and something with a small amount of weight like a small water bottle or 1-pound (0.45kg) weight.

Extension Curls (Fig. 1)

  1. Lay your elbow and forearm on the flat surface with your wrist and hand just over the edge, palm facing up.
  2. Holding the small weight in your hand, gently curl your wrist up and down.
  3. Repeat 10 times.

Flexion Curls (Fig. 2)

  1. Roll your arm over so your palm faces the floor.
  2. Holding the small weight in your hand, gently curl your wrist down and back up.
  3. Repeat 10 times.

Handshake and Rotation

For this exercise, you will need a small water bottle, can of vegetables, or other light weight. You will also need a flat surface to rest your arm against.

Rotation Exercise (Fig. 1)

  1. Place your elbow and forearm on a flat surface. Leave your wrist and hand hanging off the edge.
  2. Hold your small weight as if you are giving someone a handshake. Your fingers should be straight, in-line with the wrist, thumb pointed up.
  3. Keeping the hand in-line with the wrist, twist your wrist as far as you can inward.
  4. Hold for 2 seconds.
  5. Twist your wrist back to neutral, and then outward as far as you can.
  6. Hold for 2 seconds.
  7. Repeat this 10 times each side, or as many times as you can.

Handshake Exercise (Fig. 2)

  1. Place your elbow and forearm on a flat surface. Leave your wrist and hand hanging off the edge.
  2. Hold your small weight as if you are giving someone a handshake. Your fingers should be straight, in-line with the wrist, thumb pointed up.
  3. Keeping the fingers in-line with the wrist, tip the weight down and back up gently.
  4. Repeat 6 times.

Rubber Band Extensor Strengthening

For this exercise, you’ll need a medium-sized rubber band that you can comfortably hold around your fingers. Alternatively, you can also use finger resistance bands.

  1. Straighten your fingers and pinch them together.
  2. Place your rubber band or resistance band around all five fingers.
  3. Gently spread your fingers open as far as you can with the band still around your fingers.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Towel Twist

For this exercise, you’ll need a small dish towel. Alternatively, it can be done without a towel by simply making a fist.

  1. Hold the towel out in front of you with both hands, palms facing down.
  2. Twist the towel in opposite directions as if you are wringing out water.
  3. Repeat 10 times in one direction.
  4. Repeat 10 times in the opposite direction, palms facing up.

Pitcher’s Shoulder and Swimmer’s Shoulder

The common names for these injuries are more of an umbrella term for any injuries in the shoulder. It may be officially diagnosed as biceps tendonitis, supraspinatus tendonitis, a shoulder impingement or impingement syndrome.

There are four typical phases of tendonitis in the shoulder:

The first is overuse. In this instance, repetitive motion has caused inflammation or fraying in the tendon, which results in pain and weakness in the joint.

The second is calcification. This inflammation over an extended period can cause calcification, which means there is a build-up of calcium deposits inside the tendons. This can lead to pain and loss of strength and motion in the shoulder.

The third is impingement. You may experience this when the space between the rotator cuff and the Coracoacromial ligament (what a mouthful!) is narrowed. The humerus can pinch rotator cuff tendons into place, causing pain and inflammation.

The fourth is a rotator cuff tear. This can happen as a result of long-term impingement, severe tendonitis, or sudden trauma such as falling off the pole. With this injury, the tendon is completely torn from the rotator cuff and can result in pain, weakness, and loss of motion.

It’s important to also note that Bursitis can also feel like shoulder tendonitis. Bursitis is a condition that occurs when the bursa, a fluid-filled sac in the shoulder, pinches between the humerus bone and the shoulder blade, causing pain, stiffness and sometimes loss of motion.

Below is a list of potential symptoms for this type of tendonitis:

  • Tenderness or Pain in Shoulder

You might experience tenderness or pain in the shoulder where the tendon is damaged. This may feel like either a dull ache or a sudden, sharp pain that gets worse with movement or weight-bearing activities.

  • Pain Radiates into Neck or Down Arm

You may occasionally feel a sharp shooting pain that radiates into the neck or down your arm. This pain may also be coupled with movement or weight-bearing activities.

  • Decreased Range of Motion and Strength

The tendon helps your muscles support and move your bones. When that tendon is injured, you’ll experience a decreased range of motion and loss of strength, typically with pain or stiffness. This typically recovers with the injury and physical therapy helps rebuild supporting tissue.

Expected Recovery Time

The total recovery time that many people can expect with shoulder tendonitis is 6-12 weeks. Typically, mild cases can see recovery within 6 weeks, when new scar tissue forms and much of the inflammation settles. Many people begin rehab exercises within 2-4 weeks.

Typically, you can expect to resume a many of your daily activities after 3-4 weeks, going back slowly to weight-bearing activities like light, upright pole dancing after 6-8 weeks.

Physical Therapy Exercises

The Pendulum

This exercise is useful in both providing therapy to the shoulder as well as a warm up to any shoulder stretching you plan to do.

  1. Lean over, supporting your weight with your uninjured arm. You can use a table or a chair for support.
  2. Let your other arm hang passively.
  3. Let your arm swing gently in small, circular motions.
  4. Gradually increase the size of your circles.
  5. Switch directions and repeat.
  6. Do this 1-2 minutes at a time, 3-5 times per day.

Supraspinatus Abduction

For this stretch, you’ll need a 1-pound (.45kg) dumbbell, tennis ball, water bottle, or other small and light weight. You can skip the weight if it causes pain.

  1. Hold the weight (optional) with your hands at your side, palms facing in.
  2. Gently raise the weight out to your side, as high as possible.
  3. Repeat 5-10 times.

Cross-Chest Stretch

  1. Bring your injured arm out to waist level.
  2. Take your opposite hand behind your injured arm, above the elbow, and gently pull it across your chest.
  3. If there is any pain, lower the arm until the pain lessens and it is a simple stretch.
  4. Hold for 30-seconds.
  5. Repeat this exercise 3-5 times.

Neck Release

  1. Sitting up straight, slowly tilt your chin to your chest.
  2. Slowly tilt your head to one side to stretch the opposite shoulder.
    1. For example, tilting your head to the right will stretch the left shoulder and vice versa.
  3. Hold this stretch for 45 seconds.
  4. Gently bring your head back to neutral.
  5. Slowly tilt your chin to your chest, then to the opposite side.
  6. Hold this stretch for 45 seconds before gently bringing your head back to neutral.

Hand Behind Hip Stretch

Opposite Side Stretch:

  1. Sitting or standing, place the hand of the injured arm behind your back at the waistline, just above the bum. It should rest on the opposite side of your body.
  2. Use your opposite hand to grab the wrist and gently pull it to cross more of your back.
  3. Additionally, to intensify the stretch, you can gently pull the injured arm slightly higher on your back as well.
  4. Hold this stretch for 15-20 seconds and then lower it.

Same Side Stretch:

  • Rest your injured hand behind the back at the waistline just above the bum, this time on the same side of the body as that arm.
  • Reach around the front of your body with the opposite hand and place it just above the elbow.
  • Gently pull forward on the arm.
  • Hold this for 15-20 seconds. Release the opposite hand, then lower your injured arm.

Passive Arm Elevation

For this exercise, you’ll need a cane or light-weight rod to hold.

  1. Lay on your back with your arms at your side, holding a light-weight rod about 18 inches apart.
  2. Lift the rod upwards.
    1. You should use your uninjured arm to take as much of the weight of lifting and lowering as necessary.
  3. As you bring your hands up over your face, keeping the elbows straight, you’ll lower the rod back down to the floor.
  4. Do this 4-5 times.

Hands Behind Head

  1. Lay on your back with your hands behind your head, elbows touching.
  2. Slowly lower your elbows so they are touching the floor, hands still behind your head.
  3. Hold this position for 10 seconds then return to the starting position.
  4. Do this 10 times
  5. Repeat this exercise twice per day.

Injury Rehabilitation Good Practices

Below is a list of general good practices that will help your body heal, no matter what type of tendonitis you have been diagnosed with.

At the end of the day, taking care of your injury is the key to successful recovery. If you listened to your body today and let it rest and recover, then you’ve had a successful day. Celebrate that victory.

Pole dancing is a dynamic, acrobatic activity, and sometimes that means injuries are a part of that process. A proper recovery today will help you build a stronger body for tomorrow.

  • Rest

Of course, the key to healing any injury is rest. This, unfortunately, does mean that it’s necessary to take time off the pole so you don’t make the injury worse. It is, however, still important to keep controlled movement in the affected area and, after a few days to a week, begin light weight-bearing exercises, such as with a water bottle or small weight. Listen to your body and avoid going back to the pole until you feel ready to; in the meantime, flexibility training for areas other than the injury – such as splits training when you have tendonitis in the elbow – can be a good way to channel your enthusiasm and desire to stay active.

After a few weeks, you’ll want to start reintroducing some movements to get your elbow used to it again. You may find that using the middle range of motion – not absolute rest, but not absolute extension – feels best and promotes healing.

  • Pain Relief Medications

Medications like Ibuprofen or Aspirin may help reduce pain and swelling[2]. Reducing inflammation in the tendon sheath can help you get through daily activities without pain, especially if you experience more pain as you go through your normal day. While inflammation helps the healing process in the body, persistent and excessive swelling can increase the risk of re-injury.

There is some debate, like with many sports injuries, that a healing regimen that includes NSAIDs can potentially hinder proper healing of the tendon depending on what stage of healing the medication is administered in[3].

Most clinicians will, however, recommend these medications to lessen pain early on. If you are concerned about the healing process, then do not use them. Some pain relievers like Acetominophen (Tylenol) act differently than NSAIDs [4] and may be an option. It’s important to bring up alternative analgesics with your doctor.

  • Using a Brace

Using an elbow brace can help keep the bones aligned and keep the tendons from moving around too much, allowing them to rest even while you go through your daily movements. You can either use a brace centered over the back of your forearm or a brace that wraps around the elbow.

While a brace may not directly speed up the healing process, compressing the area allows a safer range of motion, lessening pain from those movements[5]. It may be beneficial to wear a brace during daily activities to reduce the load on the tendon, however, you will want to balance this with time outside of a brace as well.

  • Ice or Heat

Ice will also help reduce inflammation and pain. You can apply an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the affected areas, keeping excess inflammation down and numbing the area. 15-minute applications several times per day is best. If the injury has progressed into a more severe stage, there is a chance that it won’t have much, if any inflammation, so ice will not be effective[1].

If ice does not seem to work for you or the area becomes stiff easily, then heat may be a better treatment[6].

A Note About Your Body and Physical Therapy Exercises

You’ve learned about a lot of physical therapy exercises you can do to rehabilitate your tendonitis injury.

Before you perform these exercises, it’s important to note a few things.

First, you should never push through pain.

If you feel pain because of a motion or movement, ease off, let your body recover, and go to just to edge of your body’s tolerance.

Just like in stretching, you should feel intensity, not pain.

Pain may be a sign that you are simply making the injury worse, while intensity simply puts weight on the tendon and surrounding muscles, telling your body it needs to devote resources to repairing and strengthening the affected area.

Secondly, understand that the number of times you should do an exercise is a suggestion, not a rule.

If your body hits fatigue and loss of technique sooner, don’t try to push through. You’ve done what your body is capable of for now; you’ll get to the recommended reps over time. Listen to your body.

Third, physical therapy is typically light resistance if any.

Once you have fully recovered from your injury and you are able to lift weight and resume daily activity all at normal capacity, you may benefit from adding some weight – in half or full pound (0.22kg-0.45kg) increments – to strengthening exercises. Stretches, like the behind-the-back stretch, should remain stretches without weight.

Preventative Measures

One of the most important aspects of injury rehabilitation is injury prevention. It may sound cheesy to you, but taking care of your body is one of the most important things you can do in pole dancing.  Below, we’ve compiled a short list of preventative measures you can take so you can avoid tendonitis in the first place.

  • Use More of Your Body

With certain daily motions, we tend to force a lot of pressure on our joints, whether we’re getting something out of the fridge, driving, or putting on a seatbelt. It’s important to get into the habit of using the rest of our body as well.

For example, you don’t want to lift something heavy with your back because it puts too much strain on the spine. Instead, you lift with your “legs” – the glutes.

In this instance, tendonitis occurs when we place a lot of stress on the tendons in our bodies.

This applies to pole dancing as well. If you are doing a lot of one-handed spins or inverted moves that require split grip such as Butterfly or Handspring, then you run the risk of putting a lot of pressure on your elbow and shoulder joints if you cave your chest in or under-utilize your shoulder muscles, back, and lats.

Additionally, these moves all require the push/pull method to lessen the strain, and it’s not uncommon for that technique to get lost in the woodwork.

Not sure what the push/pull method is? Check out Split Grip in our Ultimate Guide to Grips and Holds.

By moving points of stress and movement from joints to muscles, we are better utilizing our body in a way it is meant to be used. This lessens the chance of a joint injury in the future and helps develop small, supporting muscles. Well-balanced habits make a well-balanced body.

  • Mix Up Your Routine

Many tendon injuries are developed because we do something repetitively.

Perhaps you’re a fan of low flow spins, so you tend to only do that type of spin.

Maybe you can’t get enough of that one move you learned several weeks ago so you try it over and over again.

Perhaps you’re an instructor and follow the same set of movements day in, day out without doing your own moves.

In any case, these are all repetitive movements that can potentially lead to tendonitis. The tendon is overused, and it needs some time to cool down, so try something different for a change.

Mix up your routine – if you typically do spins, try working on some leg hold moves. Remi sit needs some love, too.

Our muscles need variety, and by mixing up your routine, you can provide that variety. This is another reason why it’s important to step out of your comfort zone occasionally, trying something outside your style.

  • Remember to Warm Up and Cool Down

Warming up is important, and it can prevent injuries while you dance. It is, however, very easy to forget or excuse a warm up while you are poling at home or if you jump into the middle of class.

Repetitive motion can come from your warm up and aggravate your tendons further; creating a new warm up also helps renew your enthusiasm for the movement, giving you a better warm up. You can even curate a warm up rotation to cycle through.

Likewise, cool down stretches and routines typically get ignored entirely. Cooling down can help prevent muscle soreness and stiffness, as well as slow your heart rate and breathing to baseline, and regulate blood flow.

Cool down stretches will also help increase your range of motion over time. The newfound flexibility will ease tension in your joints and increase blood flow.

  • Verify Proper Technique

In an ideal world, we all have proper technique 100% of the time without any mistakes. We’ve run through our mental checklist without missing a thing, and we understand everything we need to know about the position our body is in at all times.

That is almost never the case, however.

We’re not machines calculating every single instance in a nanosecond. We’re people who love to pole dance.

There’s a lot of dynamic movement involved, and sometimes it can be easy to miss a beat or forget a technical aspect of our form. We get fatigued without realizing it. We think we’re doing something completely different than what our body is doing.

Check up on yourself.

Don’t just practice a move until you achieve it, refine the technique behind it. Verify if you have proper technique, whether that confirmation comes in the form of a spotter, a video camera, or mirrors. Seeing yourself from the outside is critical to pole dancing for your own health, not just aesthetics.

  • Listen to Your Body

If you experience pain when you perform a certain movement, ease up or stop. We understand that Superman sucks, and shoulder mounts can be uncomfortable at first. There’s a difference between that kind of discomfort and “something is wrong” pain. Listening to your body and gaining the experience and practice in understanding those subtle cues is important in any physical exercise.

  • Continue Recommended Exercises

After you’ve gone through an injury, especially when tendons are involved, it can put you at a predisposition for re-injury in the future[7]. It is advisable to continue the rehab exercises after your body is healed so you can continue to develop the muscles around the affected area, keeping it flexible and healthy.

Your physical therapist may recommend slight adjustments to your exercise regimen depending on how well the injury healed, how fast you recovered, and the current state of the injury.


We know, you read these kind of disclaimers all over the place, but it’s still important to take it seriously.

If you think you have an injury, it should be checked out and diagnosed by a doctor or other medical professional as soon as possible. What might seem like one injury could be a deeper, more serious issue altogether.

The internet is not a replacement for a medical degree, and you should never use PolePedia or another site to diagnose yourself at home.

Taking steps to educate yourself about an injury is ideal, yes, but no one would trust a car mechanic to perform brain surgery. Any suggested home therapy should be done at your own risk after being approved by your doctor.

If you have a torn tendon, for example, physical therapy too early on could make the issue worse, as many tears require surgical intervention.

Remember, be honest with your doctor about your hobbies; understanding that you pole dance may be beneficial in helping them understand the movements your body will undergo, and it may alter their estimate of when it’s safe to go back.