Yoga for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

1
Avoid Wrist Strain

Dolphin Pose. © Barry Stone

Yoga exercises can help reduce the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 concluded that participants who practiced yoga over an eight-week period showed improvement in their condition compared to those who did not do yoga. The yoga poses emphasized in this study focused on opening, stretching, and strengthening the joints of the upper body. A yoga regimen including these types of poses, and avoiding those which place too much pressure on the wrists, may offer relief to CTS sufferers. It should be noted that no yoga poses can cure CTS, and that your physician should be consulted before trying any new therapy.

Poses in which a significant amount of the body's weight is resting on the wrists should be avoided or modified. These include Downward Facing Dog, Plank, and most Arm Balances.

Modifications include doing the pose with closed fists rather than flat palms, as this reduces the pressure on the wrists. In order to avoid putting any weight on the wrists, you can try Downward Dog with the forearms flat on the floor, as shown here in Dolphin.

2
Improve Your Posture

Mountain Pose - Tadasana. © Barry Stone

An overall improvement in posture will help you avoid the stress that contributes to CTS. Mountain Pose - Tadasana is a good place to start, as it creates an awareness of the natural curves of the spine and good posture, which can be translated into everyday activities like sitting at a desk.

3
Stretch the Wrists

Reverse Namaste
Reverse Namaste. Phil Payne Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Anjali Mudra

, or prayer position, is a good stretch for the wrists since the amount of pressure is very easily controlled. If you can fully flex the wrists without pain, try taking the prayer position behind your back instead. This is called Reverse Namaste or Secret Prayer.

4
Open the Shoulders

Cow Face Arms - Eagle Arms. © Barry Stone

The arm positions in Cow Face Pose - Gomukhasana and Eagle Pose - Garudasana, which can be done in a seated position, will give a nice stretch to the tight shoulders brought about by hours spent hunched over a computer keyboard.

5
Backbend

Supported Bridge and Bow Pose. © Barry Stone

Backbends can help counteract the forward-leaning tendency that desk workers develop. A Supported Bridge is a nice, gentle backbend. More advanced yogis may try Bow Pose - Dhanurasana, a full backbend that does not put pressure on the wrists like a Full Wheel, which should be avoided.

6
Stretch at Your Desk

Wrist Stretches at Your Desk. © Barry Stone

Taking breaks throughout the work day to do this series of yoga stretches at your desk is a good way to avoid repetitive stress injures. These stretches reduce stress and relieve built-up tension (they can actually make you more productive).

Source:

Garfinkel MS, Singhal A, Katz WA, Allan DA, Reshetar R, Schumacher HR Jr. Yoga-based intervention for carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized trial. JAMA. 1998 Nov 11;280(18):1601-3. (Abstract)

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