A friend of mine asked me if yoga would be good for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I answered with a resounding YES! Yoga can help ease the affected nerve compression, improve blood flow, and also create an improved joint posture. That being said, the common theme to be mindful about is to “Listen to your Body” and if it hurts to back off, modify, or don’t do the pose queued in the yoga practice.
WHAT IS CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME?
You can certainly Google and get an in depth explanation and I encourage you to do so. However, for the sake of this blog, I’m going with the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Short and Simple) and give you a brief idea.
– Carpal Tunnel Syndrome arises when the “median nerve” that runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand becomes compressed at the wrist. (Think kinked garden hose). When this occurs, people typically experience tingling and numbness. Sometimes, there is a sharp, piercing pain that shoots up from the wrist into the arm and for some there is a weakening of grasp. (My Mom suffers from the weakening and thus she sometimes drops stuff). Overall, it is a progressive condition where symptoms come about gradually and eventually worsen. There are a lot of contributing factors such as wrist injury, rheumatoid arthritis, work stress… and women tend to be likely to suffer than men.
YOGA FOR CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME:
When designing a class around Carpal Tunnel Syndrome whether it is for your own home practice or one you are designing to present to a class, it is important to focus on the upper body. Pose sequence considerations would be those that help to strengthen, stretch, and essentially balance all of the upper body joints that are in the wrists, arms, and shoulders.
Keep in mind…
1. First off, avoid any poses that place too much pressure on the wrists. Again, if pain is present, back off, modify, or don’t do the pose. (There are no bonus points for pain). Poses guilty of too much pressure include Downward Facing Dog, High Plank, and Arm Balances. For instance, if the ever popular Downward Facing Dog is queued, pursue Dolphin instead or try using your fists. (You may want to reference my blog on wrist pain for modification ideas. “Participants Number 1 Complaint: Wrist Pain” written October 2012).
2. Also, it may not be radially apparent but practicing proper posture helps with body alignment which reduces upper body stress to include those contributing towards Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Mountain Pose is one of the best asanas to draw mindfulness towards one’s posture. Consider also reversing the day’s evils of sitting hunched over a computer or smart phone. Great options are the various backbend varieties. Choose one.
3. In yoga, there are a lot of arm and hand positions that provide nice a nice stretch for the wrists and shoulders.
– Consider Reverse Namaste (AKA Secret Prayer). This is just hands in prayer position but behind your back.
Two other popular arm positions include Cow Face Arms or Eagle Arms or even Eagle Hug.
– For Cow Face Arms, reach one arm up over your head and lower as if patting your upper back. Then take the other arm down behind your back reaching fingers toward the top hand. If fingers don’t grasp each other, consider connecting with a strap or towel.
– For Eagle arms just extend both arms out in front of you, fold one of the other, bend the elbows, and wrap the forearms around so your palms can meet with thumbs pointing toward your forehead. Can’t do the wrap around, then just put opposite hand on opposite shoulder.
The nice thing about all three of these hand positions is that they can be pursued in quite a few yoga poses or even at your desk at work.
4. And speaking of yoga at work, a great wrist stretch is to place your hands on your desk with your fingers facing your body and applying gentle pressure by leaning into your hands. Try this wrist stretch at any time during your duty day when your wrists start to feel aggravated.
All in all, these concepts are pretty easy to remember with regards to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Just make some little changes to your existing practice or if you are exploring yoga for the first time, keep these concepts in the back of your head.