Two years ago I had carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists. Not at the same time…..that would have been crazy! I recovered from the first (mostly), and had surgery on the second soon after. As you might suspect, it really messed with my yoga practice. I never really thought about how many downward dogs were in a yoga class until I struggled with this kind of discomfort. Many yoga practitioners have asked me how to prevent wrist pain while in postures like table, plank and downward dog. The first thing to do is to have the pain checked out by your doctor. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, when left untreated can lead to permanent problems, such as decreased muscle strength and function, or lack of sensation. But enough gloom and doom. The big question for yogis is what to do during a yoga class to prevent pain and avoid further injury.
Let’s first take a peek inside the wrist to get an idea of what’s going on in there. Which is actually quite a lot! Although there may be other causes of wrist pain, I’ll focus on the carpal tunnel since this is such a prevalent problem in our society. The carpal tunnel is a space between structures on the anterior (palm side) of the wrist. This space is like a pipeline for the median nerve and a bunch of muscle tendons as they go from the arm to the hand and fingers. The median nerve supplies muscles in the forearm, palm and fingers of the hand. It has the job of making the muscles of the thumb, index finger and middle finger move. It’s responsible for us being able to grasp objects, so it’s pretty important. Repetitive motion and continuous pressure on the anterior wrist can cause inflammation in the muscle tendons. The pipeline (carpal tunnel) gets clogged in a way, and then compresses the median nerve. Compression often causes tingling or pain in the fingers (thumb, index and middle), can reduce the ability to grasp objects, or cause one to drop objects. By the way, If you start to drop objects…..it’s definitely time to go to the doctor.
Because of pressure on the wrists, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can also cause pain or discomfort in the above mentioned yoga postures. To avoid this discomfort check your alignment when you’re in postures with weight on your hands. Try the following tips when in table, downward facing dog or plank pose:
- Come onto your hands and knees and align your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips
- Spread your fingers wide and point your index finger forward. If you’re on a yoga mat, your index fingers will be parallel to the long sides of your mat
- Internally rotate your forearms inward so that the insides of the elbows face toward each other instead of facing forward
- Finally, press the mound under the base of your index finger into the earth. This will take pressure off your thumbs and wrist
Downward Facing Dog
- From your position in table (remember to align the hands), tuck your toes under and lift your hips up
- Now rotate your forearms outward
- As in table, press the mound under the base of your index finger into the earth. This will take pressure off your thumbs and wrist
- Evenly distribute your weight between your hands and your feet so that not all the pressure is on the hands.
- Start in Table with hands aligned
- Extend each leg back and tuck the toes under to find your plank posture
- Rotate forearms inward and press down through the index finger mound , as you did in table
- Finally, press your heels back toward the wall behind you to distribute the weight more evenlyHopefully these tips will help make these three postures more comfortable and accessible during your yoga practice.
For a yoga class to help all your body parts feel better, try one of my weekly offerings. I teach Hatha Yoga (Sundays 5-6 pm MT), Yoga 1 (Mondays, 5:30 pm MT) and Healing through Yoga (Wednesdays at 5:30 MT).
If you’d like a personalized sequence or an individual session focused on your health goals, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also sign up for a class or private session by clicking here. For more tips on pain relief and injury prevention through yoga and physical therapy, sign up for my newsletter here, or follow me on social media on FaceBook @yogalorie, Instagram Wellness_with_Lorie, or LinkedIn yogalorie