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Yoga injuries on the rise in women

Yoga Until You Hurt?

SheKnows.com—October 7, 2010

By: Michelle Carlson, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon, at Hospital for Special Surgery
Over the past few years at Hospital for Special Surgery, I’ve seen an increase in patients with hand or wrist pain brought on by yoga or aggravated by the practice. I recall one day last year when four women in a row came to see me with hand injuries they sustained while doing yoga. Four women in one day! If you practice yoga, here’s how to avoid common yoga injuries.

Don't push through the yoga pain

While yoga can offer excellent health benefits for the body and mind, many of the poses can strain the hand and wrist, so people need to listen to their bodies if they begin to feel pain. In other sports like tennis, people are aware of potential injury and when they feel pain, for instance in their elbow, they back off to avoid "tennis elbow." In contrast, yoga enthusiasts tend to push through the discomfort because they think yoga is good for them and often think that pain in other parts of the body represents a good stretch. However, pain at the hand and wrist can be a sign of impending injury and should be a warning sign to stop.

Yoga may worsen existing conditions

Certain positions can aggravate minor hand problems that were not symptomatic before. I have seen patients with mild arthritis, mild carpal tunnel syndrome and even ganglion cysts that didn't bother them until they started doing yoga. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. When conservative treatments fail, people may need surgery.

Putting on the yoga pressure

Many people don't realize how much pressure yoga puts on their hands. It can be like walking on your hands, and we're not meant to do that. The most common yoga injury I see is tendonitis, the painful inflammation of a tendon in the wrist. Most of the time patients get better with rest, placing the wrist in a splint to immobilize it and sometimes having cortisone injections, but infrequently they need surgery.

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