As an occupational therapist, a common complaint I hear from patients is, “My wrist hurts when I do yoga.” Having practiced yoga myself, it is easy to see why. Yoga requires a great amount of heavy weight bearing on joints that are rather small and delicate. Yoga also stretches the wrist to the extreme ends of your range of motion. If your find that you are having pain in down dog, let's discuss why wrist pain can occur, modifications that can be made to your yoga practice to help reduce pain and when it would be beneficial to consult with a health care specialist.
The wrist is comprised of a series of small bones called carpal bones. Metacarpals extend from the carpal bones to make up the rest of the hand and the fingers extend past the metacarpals. The small carpal bones in your wrist also connect with the radius and ulna, the larger bones that comprise the forearm and part of the elbow.
In the average person, 80 percent of the force that is transmitted through the wrist during heavy weight bearing is transmitted through the radius. 20 percent of the force is transmitted through the ulna. Since everyone’s anatomy is different, this may be slightly different for you. Your body’s natural anatomy, in addition to having had a fall on an outstretched hand, arthritis or generalized stiffness, can all contribute to symptoms of wrist pain.
The wrist functions in multiple planes of motion: wrist extension, flexion, radial deviation, ulnar deviation and forearm supination and pronation . Yoga requires movement in all planes of motion, with the greatest emphasis on wrist extension.
So why does my wrist hurt during yoga?
Do a quick assessment and see how far your wrist moves in each direction. Does your wrist feel stiff when you move? If so, some gentle stretches completed throughout the day may help to loosen up your wrists and make it easier to practice yoga.
If you have arthritis or have had a past injury to your wrist, then modifying yoga poses may be most helpful. Yoga blocks, wedges or gel pads can alter the angle of your wrist to reduce the amount of extension required and reduce stress on the wrist joint.
Tips for reducing wrist pain during yoga
When weight bearing, try to make sure you are pushing through your finger tips and that your palm is rested firmly on your mat. If your wrist continues to hurt with modifications, you can try weight bearing with a fisted hand, instead of a flat hand.
Neoprene wrist supports are also helpful to decrease stress on your joints and provide extra support to your wrist. These can be purchased over the counter or online.
Also, it is always recommended that notify your instructor of any pain or injuries that you may have.
When should I see a medical provider for my wrist pain?
As always, it is important to see your health care provider when something doesn’t feel right. Wrist pain can be caused by a variety of conditions including tendonitis, arthritis, ligamentous injury, fracture and/or ganglion cyst(s). Contact your physician if you are doing yoga and your pain is worsening, if you are having pain and limitations in other daily activities, if your pain feels severe or if your pain has been ongoing for a prolonged period of time.
Once you contact your physician, further testing or examination may be completed. This could include a physical examination of your wrist and possibly imaging (x-rays, ultrasound, MRI) to better determine what is wrong. Your doctor will want to know where your pain occurs, how long it has been bothering you for and what activities are causing pain.
A consultation with an occupational therapist or hand therapist can also be beneficial in helping to reduce pain. Your hand therapist will assess your injury and symptoms and to determine the best plan of care to get you back to your yoga practice pain free! This can include helping you find a brace or wrist support that will work well for your needs, teaching you modifications or positions to avoid in order to prevent your symptoms from worsening, and showing you some stretches and exercises to build flexibility and strength.
Wrist pain while doing yoga is common, but something you don’t have to live with! Trying some of the tips mentioned above may be all it takes to get you feeling good on your mat. However, if you find that pain is persisting, contact your physician and ask how seeing a hand therapist can help!
Learn more about hand therapy.
Schedule an appointment with a Hand Therapist at our Deming Way Clinic or Monona Clinic.