Most commonly associated with avid computer users (and I'm sure smart phones aren't helping the situation!), Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is far more than an annoyance and can sometimes prove so painful that the affected hand is simply unusable. Think nerve disorder: Generally a repetitive motion causes pressure on the median nerve, which controls sensations in the thumb, index and middle fingers, resulting in pain, numbness, tingling, weakness and more (perhaps a mild oversimplification).
Studies have shown that a yoga practice can have an alleviating effect on Carpal Tunnel sufferers. Researchers found that yoga helps because it eases the compression of the affected nerves, improves blood flow and creates better joint posture.
A 1998 study found that a yoga-based regimen was more effective than wrist splinting in relieving some symptoms and signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Twice a week for eight weeks, members of the study's yoga group practiced 11 yoga postures designed for strengthening, stretching and balancing each joint in the upper body. In addition to experiencing significant improvement in grip strength, the yoga-practicing participants had a significant reduction in pain. Here are the poses they practiced:
- Staff pose (dandasana) -- sit on chair, trunk upright, press hands into chair, press shoulder baldes into back, move shoulders back and down.
- Prayer position -- press palms and fingers together, stretch and bend fingers.
- Arms overhead (urdhva hastasana) -- Lift arms over head, keep arms straight and shoulders down.
- Arms overhead, fingers interlocked (parvatasana) -- Same as above, clasp fingers, turn palms upward.
- Chair twist -- sit sideways in chair with right side against back of chair. Place hands on back of chair, twist to the right using hands for additional support. Repeat on other side.
- Mountain (tadasana) -- stand tall, reaching through the crown of your head. Reach your hands actively towards the ground.
- 90 degree forward bend to wall -- Stand with feet about hip width apart, raise arms over head, bend at hips bringing hands to rest on wall.
- Arms overhead with hands in prayer position -- Stand in tadasana, raise arms to Tee position, turn palms up, then rotate arms in small circles, first forward then back. Lift arms straight overhead, join hands in prayer position, stretch up and look up at hands.
- Dog pose with chair -- Stand, feet hip width apart, facing the seat of a chair. Bend, placing palms on seat, shoulder width apart. Straighten arms and lift waist, hips and knees a few inches above the chair. Turn arms out and curve trunk back between them. Bring coccyx, sacrum and lumbar spine forward, keeping buttocks tight. Stetch front of body from the pubis. Raise sternum and ribs. Hold shoulders back. Press shoulder blades and dorsal spine in.
- Hands in prayer behind back -- Stand in tadasana, bring palms together behind back. Turn fingers up and raise as high as possible between the shoulder blades.
- Relaxation (savasana)
When practicing yoga with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, be sure to:
1. align: Perhaps seek out an Iyengar class that tends to be much more precise in its emphasis on alignment.
2. adapt: Some poses may need modifications to ensure you don't put your wrists in a vulnerable position and end up hurting what you are trying to heal.
3. ask: Speak to your doctor about incorporating yoga into your treatmnet for Carpal Tunnel. You can also ask around at your local yoga studios to find an experienced teacher who is knowledgeable on the subject.
Moreover, a solid yoga practice can make for great preventitive fodder for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and innumerable other ailments. Think holistic means of bringing wellness to mind and body... and maybe some soul thrown in there too.