Its National Yoga Month! As yoga has increased in popularity, Dr. Michelle Carlson, a hand specialist, has seen more patients with hand or wrist pain brought on by yoga or aggravated by the practice. “While yoga can offer excellent health benefits for the body and mind, many of the poses can strain the hand and wrist,” said Dr. Carlson.
Certain positions can aggravate minor injuries or cause new problems. Dr. Carlson has seen patients with mild arthritis or mild carpal tunnel syndrome that didn’t bother them until they started doing yoga. “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,” Dr. Carlson noted. The most common yoga injury is tendinitis, the painful inflammation of a tendon in the wrist, according to Dr. Carlson. Most of the time, patients get better with rest, placing the wrist in a splint to immobilize it and cortisone injections, but sometimes they need surgery.
Dr. Carlson says anyone who doesn’t engage in good practices can get hurt. She has the following suggestions so people can avoid injury and derive the health benefits yoga is meant to provide:
- Keep your wrist straight. It’s okay to flex or extend the wrist, but ideally you want to keep it in line with the arm and not turn it to the right or left. People get into trouble, especially when they try to turn their hands in, because that causes more stress across the wrist.
- Take a rolled up towel and put it under your palms, so it causes less strain on your wrist when doing positions such as ‘downward dog.’
- If you have any medical injuries or conditions, check with your doctor before beginning yoga.
- Start slowly and learn the basics. Never push yourself to the point of pain while stretching or assuming a position.
- Warm up thoroughly before a yoga session.
- Listen to your body. Stop at the first sign of discomfort. If you are extremely fatigued, take a break.
- Make sure the yoga studio or class has a good reputation and qualified instructors. Ask about their experience and credentials.
- Ask questions if you’re not sure how to perform a pose.
- Know your limits. Do not try yoga poses beyond your experience or comfort level.
Dr. Michelle Carlson is an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery.She specializes in treating sports-related hand injuries and fractures, pediatric hand conditions, hand disorders in women, and neurologic injuries in the upper extremity. Dr. Carlson is the director and founder of the Children and Adolescent Hand and Arm (CHArm) Center.