- Can yoga help?
- Hand Yoga Stretches
- Extended arm wrist-stretch
- Cow face pose
- Kneel down wrist-rub
- Wrist rotations
- Wall push-ups
- Phalen’s maneuver pose
- Clenched fists
- Over head wrist stretch
- Poses to avoid
Spending hours in front of the computer, holding the mouse is an unusual activity for your wrists. And this causes a very common neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) aka median nerve compression.
A syndrome where tissues swell up around the neural gateway in your wrist. This causes pressure build-up within the neural gateway or the carpal tunnel.
The carpal tunnel is on the Palmar side of the wrist joint and through it passes the median nerve. Over time this causes numbness, tingling, and pain in your hand, wrist, fingers, and arm.
Note: Although often a result of an injury, this syndrome can also be a result of diabetes, osteoporosis, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity.
Can Yoga Help Alleviate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms?
Practicing wrist-specific yoga poses will help you heal the swollen tissues around your carpal tunnel. Also, yoga warm-up exercises increase the blood flow in your wrists, hands, and fingertips. And finally, yoga practices uplift the health of your peripheral nerves. These benefits of yoga collectively prove an effective remedy to carpal tunnel syndrome.
The causes of this syndrome can vary, but the structure always remains the same; which is inflammation of the tissues around the carpal tunnel. Yoga can provide anti-inflammatory relief to your wrist to ease your condition.
Carpal syndrome, in terms of its symptoms, is a nerve-related problem. However, analyzing the cause it’s an inflammatory issue. As an effective remedy yoga rightly addresses the primary cause. Yoga can essentially lower the levels of pro-inflammatory molecules in your body. This will automatically trigger an anti-inflammatory response.
Last but not the list, yoga will also stimulate the peripheral nervous network in your hands, and relieve them of the tension built on them by the swelling. This benefit will ease the symptoms.
Research shows that hatha yoga practices can benefit different peripheral nervous system disorders. More specifically it can even enhance the nerve conduction velocity in the median nerve; the nerve affected in carpal tunnel syndrome 1.
1. Yoga brings stability to your wrist movement
Jerky wrist movements and lack of stability at the wrist joint, will always inevitably delay your healing process. This is why a major part of your remedial therapies will focus on keeping your wrist tension-free and restoring wrist stability.
If you have CTS, you will be wearing wrist support wraps most of the time. However, yoga poses could prove more effective in increasing the stability of your joint. In fact, studies have shown that yoga-based intervention proves more effective than using wrist splinters 2
Yoga pose will help you maintain controlled movement in your wrists. You will be aware of the movement and of the posture. Stable movements will supplement the healing process in your wrist. This benefit will be a result of the enhanced signal transmission through your peripheral neural pathways by practicing yoga.
2. Yoga increases your wrist mobility
If you feel that you are at the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, then yoga can prove to be a preventive measure as well.
Yoga can enhance your nervous functions to boost your control over your physiology.
Yoga wrist stretches and arm stretches will increase the flexibility of your hand muscles. The stretches will also enhance the range of motion in your wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints.
Lastly, yoga will enhance blood flow to your hand, keeping them well nourished at all times. Strong bones and muscles in your hands will help you evade injuries that can eventually lead up to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Hand Yoga stretches for Carpal tunnel syndrome
To treat your carpal tunnel syndrome with yoga you need gentle stretches of your wrist, that will carefully tend to the swollen tissues. Remember, when you have CTS, for any pose deciding the limit of a stretch is up to you. Stretch your wrists only to a point you feel comfortable.
You will probably have the syndrome in just one wrist. However, balance is a fundamental element in any exercise. Thus irrespective of your injury you will have to practice the pose on both wrists.
1. Extended arm wrist-stretch
This is going to be a simple wrist stretch, but greatly effective in CTS. This stretch will nicely open up your wrist joint and relieve pressure from the neural gateway. The swollen tissues around the carpal tunnel will heal, and blood flow will increase to your fingertips.
- Stretch out your arm affected by CTS.
- Stretch it straight.
- Open your palms and point your fingers upward.
- Now with the other hand pull back your fingers.
- Ensure that it’s not just your fingers but your palm is being pulled back as well, creating a flexion at your wrist joint.
- Hold this hand pose for 20-30 seconds.
- Repeat the pose with your other wrist.
2. Cow face pose
Cow face pose is a pose that heals your entire hand; from your shoulders to your fingertips. Including this pose in your routine is a must for CTS treatment, because most often in Carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms extend along the entire hand.
- Sit in a staff pose.
- Bend up your right knee.
- Bend your left leg, keeping it in touch with the ground, draw your left foot towards your groin.
- Take your left foot to your right side, from under your right knee, and touch it to the right side of the sitting bone.
- Take your right leg over your left leg, stack up your right knee on your left, and press the right foot against your left sitting bone.
- Raise your right-hand overhead, bend your elbow and reach for the middle of your shoulder bones with your right palm.
- Similarly, take your left hand from the sides of your left abdomen and reach towards your right palm.
- At the middle of your shoulder bones clasp your hands together.
3. Kneel down wrist-rub
Like most stretches on this list, this too is a wrist-specific yoga exercise for Carpal tunnel syndrome. The kneel down wrist-rub also known as the hand-dance, is going to feel very pleasant, especially on stiff wrist joints. In this pose, your wrist stretches in a rotational movement, which increases your comfort at a greater range of motions.
- Kneel on the floor with your legs hip-width apart.
- Bend and lean forward and drop your hands on the floor forward.
- Adjust your bend and lean, so that you can keep your hands straight from your body to the floor.
- Plant your palm on the floor, such that a 90 degrees angle is created between your hands and arms at your wrists.
- Lean on over your hand, and press gently with your hands against the floor, to feel the flexion at your wrists.
- In the beginning, keep your palms open, touching the ground and pointing forward.
- Then rotate your wrists inward, pointing the fingers toward each other.
- Then rotate your fingers toward yourself and once again rotate them outward.
- Reverse your palms, with the back of your palms touching the floor, and repeat the same combination of rotation; forward, inward, toward yourself, and outward.
4. Wrist rotations
Wrist rotations are the most basic form of freehand exercise for your wrists. However, this pose takes care of multiple constructs on your wrist. Wrist rotations will improve the bone joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels. The rotation is also not a static pose but a dynamic one, which is why in effect it will uplift the movement of your wrists.
- Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. be seated on a chair or stand erect in a mountain pose if the cross-legged position is not suitable for you.
- Lift both your hands straight in front of you, keeping them at the level of your shoulders.
- Close in your palms into a fist.
- Rotate your wrists, clockwise and then counter-clockwise.
- Rotate once focusing on the muscles at the end of your arms and rotate once more using all of your hand muscles.
- Rotate 10 times on each side.
- Rotate one wrist at a time.
5. Wall push ups
Wall push-ups are the gentlest form of strength-building exercise for your wrists to relieve CTS symptoms. You will need to restore the wrist strength that you have been stripped off by CTS. But most wrist strengthening exercises are too risky with Carpal tunnel syndrome. This is where the wall pushups Excel.
- Stand against the wall, facing the wall
- Stand with more than an arms-length between your feet and the wall.
- Keep one feet gap between your feet.
- Lean forward, keeping an arms-length between your shoulders and the wall.
- Keep your hands straight.
- This should feel like doing a plank against the wall.
- Now perform 10 pushups against the wall.
6. Phalen’s maneuver
Phalen’s maneuver is primarily a pose to separate Carpal tunnel syndrome from general wrist pain. However, the technique of this pose is such, that it specifically deals with the pressure build-up in the carpal tunnel region. This pose was the idea of an American orthopedist George. S.Phalen so named after him.
- Sit in a chair or stand in a mountain pose.
- Raise your hands straight, by the sides of your body, at your shoulder’s level.
- Bend your elbow joint, and bring your hands in front of your breastbone, and perform a Namaste mudra.
- Now reverse the Namaste.
- Touching together from the dorsal side of your wrists to your fingertips. Your fingertips pointing downward.
- Hold your pose for 20-30 seconds.
- Repeat this 5 times in one stretch.
7. Clenched fists
Have you ever firmly made your fist, and then opened up to see how red your fingertips get. Well, that’s because as you clench your fists, blood rushes to your fingertips.
The clenching fists pose will benefit the CTS symptoms at your fingertips. This pose also involves an inward bending posture, that particularly stretches the carpal tunnel region; reducing the internal swelling.
- Stand erect in a mountain pose.
- Lift both your hands straight infront of you, keeping them at the level of your shoulders.
- Rotate your arms inward with open palms, your palms facing each other.
- Close in your palms into a fist.
- Draw your fists, backward toward your body.
- Hold your pose for 20-30 seconds.
8. Overhead wrist stretch
The overhead wrist stretch is similar to Urdhva Hastasana yoga posture motivates the veins in your hands to clear the toxins from your hand tissues. With the tissues cleansed of toxins, healing speed will increase in your carpal tunnel region. As a result, your inflammation will reduce. You will also have carpal tunnel pain relief at your wrists as well.
- Stand in mountain pose or sit in a comfortable cross-legged position.
- Raise both your hands, straight, overhead.
- Face your palms toward each other, and interlace your fingers together.
- Keep your fingers interlaced together, and rotate your wrists to face the palms upward, and the dorsal sides of your wrists inward.
- Hold the pose for 20-30 seconds
Yoga poses to avoid that worsen your CTS
There are certain poses in yoga that are great to increase your wrist strength. At first sight, they can be very tempting to be practiced. However, for a beginner or someone with Carpal tunnel syndrome they can be a bad idea.
Poses that require your wrists to carry and balance your entire body weight at different angles are the ones to avoid in Carpal tunnel syndrome. Crow pose, downward-facing dog pose, pushups, handstand, and Surya Namaskar are such examples of poses to be avoided with CTS. In short most hand strength training poses.
These poses will need wrist strength and mobility, which you will lack as a beginner or someone with CTS. It is not the pose itself that will be a risk to your wrist, but your attempt to perform with the lack of wrist strength.
- Mishra SK, Singh P, Bunch SJ, Zhang R. The therapeutic value of yoga in neurological disorders. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2012;15(4):247-254. doi:10.4103/0972-2327.104328
- Garfinkel MS, Singhal A, Katz WA, Allan DA, Reshetar R, Schumacher, Jr HR. Yoga-Based Intervention for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized Trial. JAMA. 1998;280(18):1601–1603. doi:10.1001/jama.280.18.1601