Looking for Relief of Your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms? Practicing Yoga May Help

carpal tunnel

Yoga relieves stress, increases flexibility and can help decrease aches and pains, including those caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. Performing the poses only take a few minutes, but offers an effective, completely natural way to manage your symptoms and speed healing.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The median nerve in your arm passes through the carpal tunnel, a small passageway in your wrist joint formed by bones and ligaments. Because space in the passageway is very tight, even slight narrowing or swelling in the wrist can cause compression. When compression occurs, you may experience carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, such as tingling, numbness or weakness in your arm and hand.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by injuries, arthritis, cysts, fluid retention or repetitive motion. It's particularly common in people who work on computers every day, but may also affect people in other types of jobs, including meat packers, factory workers, musicians and chefs.

Some conditions or diseases can increase your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, such as obesity, pregnancy, diabetes, arthritis, chronic kidney insufficiency and or bone abnormalities. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke notes that women are three times as likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome as men, possibly due to the smaller size of the tunnel in women.

How Can Yoga Help?

Traditional carpal tunnel syndrome treatment focuses on the wrists and often ignores the effects of poor posture. Posture problems don't just cause back and neck pain but may also irritate your nerves, which may worsen carpal tunnel syndrome.

Yoga offers an excellent way to improve your posture and decrease your symptoms. Classes focus on performing movements precisely, ensuring that your alignment and posture is correct throughout every second of the pose. When you practice yoga regularly, maintaining good posture may soon become second nature.

Specific poses, such as the standing cobra pose or the upward hands pose, can open up the space in the wrist, improve circulation and strengthen the arms and wrists. Practicing these and other poses offers a simple way to relieve pain and speed healing.

The effectiveness of yoga as a carpal tunnel syndrome treatment was the focus of a study published in the November 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Forty-two people who had the condition received a wrist splint or performed 11 yoga poses designed to strengthen and stretch the joints of the upper body. After eight weeks, the yoga group experienced significant improvement in grip strength and pain reduction compared to the participants who only received splints.

Breath training, as essential part of your yoga practice, may also help relieve your symptoms. When you don't breathe deeply, your muscles tend to become tense. Muscle tension can be a contributing factor in carpal tunnel syndrome. During yoga classes, you'll clear your mind and focus on breathing in and out deeply as you perform each pose. Yogic breathing offers many benefits, including stress reduction, improved blood flow, reduction in blood pressure and relief of pain.

Which Poses Are Helpful?

If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you may want to try these poses:

  • Upward Hands Pose. Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides with your palms facing outward. Inhale, raise your arms above your head, bringing your palms together. Breathe deeply as you hold the pose for several seconds. Exhale and lower your palms in front of your chest in the Namaste gesture.
  • Standing Cobra Pose. This wall-based cobra pose relaxes and strengthens the muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper body without putting any pressure on your wrists. Stand four inches from the wall with your feet together and your hands by your side. Press your lower abdomen against the wall. Place your fingertips against the wall, keeping your elbows bent. Gently arch your back, drawing your shoulder blades together. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat.

Some poses can aggravate carpal tunnel, according to Yoga Journal, and should be avoided. They include:

  • Cobra (Traditional Pose)
  • Cow
  • Downward-Facing Dog
  • Four-Limbed Staff
  • Peacock
  • Plank
  • Poses Dedicated to Sage Koundinya I and II
  • Scale
  • Shoulder-Pressing
  • Side Crane
  • Side Plank
  • Upward Bow
  • Upward-Facing Two-Foot Staff
  • Upward Plank

Yoga offers effective relief of your carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms and may help you avoid a relapse if you've had the condition in the past. Your yoga instructor can recommend specific poses to improve your posture, relax tight muscles and decrease wrist compression. Contact us to enroll in a class today.


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet, 1/17


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet, 1/17


Yoga Journal: Wrist Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, 8/28/07


Yoga International: Wrist Relief: 6 Poses for RSI, 6/4/13


Yoga Journal: For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


Pub Med: Journal of the American Medical Association, 11/11/98


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