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Yoga for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Updated September 13, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

For people struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome, yoga may offer some relief.

A narrow passageway of bones and ligaments on the underside of the wrist, the carpal tunnel contains tendons and a nerve known as the "median nerve." When those tendons become thickened or irritated (often due to repetitive finger and hand use, especially with improper positioning), the median nerve gets compressed and carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms flare up. Some research suggests that practicing yoga may help lessen common carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms (such as pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling in the fingers or hands).

Health Benefits of Yoga for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

To date, few studies have tested yoga's effectiveness in treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. However, the existing research suggests that yoga may be of some use to people with this condition.

In a 1998 study of 42 carpal tunnel syndrome patients, for instance, researchers found that a yoga-based regimen was more effective than wrist splinting in relieving some symptoms and signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. Twice a week for eight weeks, members of the study's yoga group practiced 11 yoga postures designed for strengthening, stretching, and balancing each joint in the upper body. In addition to experiencing significant improvement in grip strength, the yoga-practicing participants had a significant reduction in pain.

In a report published in a 2010 issue of the International Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, researchers note that there is limited evidence for yoga's effectiveness as a nonsurgical treatment option for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Safety

Although yoga is generally considered safe, it's important to discontinue a pose if you experience any pain or discomfort. What's more, self-treating with yoga and avoiding standard care for carpal tunnel syndrome may have harmful consequences.

If you experience symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, it's crucial to consult your physician and explore the possibility of an underlying health problem (such as rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, or diabetes).

Using Yoga to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Due to the lack of science behind yoga's effectiveness against carpal tunnel syndrome, it's too soon to recommend yoga as a principal treatment for this condition. However, yoga may offer some benefits for people dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome. Learn more about yoga poses that may help improve your carpal tunnel symptoms, and talk to your doctor about how to incorporate yoga into your carpal tunnel syndrome treatment program.

Sources

Carlson H, Colbert A, Frydl J, Arnall E, Elliot M, Carlson N. "Current options for nonsurgical management of carpal tunnel syndrome." Int J Clin Rheumtol. 2010 Feb;5(1):129-142.

Garfinkel MS, Singhal A, Katz WA, Allan DA, Reshetar R, Schumacher HR Jr. "Yoga-based intervention for carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized trial." JAMA. 1998 Nov 11;280(18):1601-3.

Muller M, Tsui D, Schnurr R, Biddulph-Deisroth L, Hard J, MacDermid JC. "Effectiveness of hand therapy interventions in primary management of carpal tunnel syndrome: a systematic review." J Hand Ther. 2004 Apr-Jun;17(2):210-28.

Piazzini DB, Aprile I, Ferrara PE, Bertolini C, Tonali P, Maggi L, Rabini A, Piantelli S, Padua L. "A systematic review of conservative treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome." Clin Rehabil. 2007 Apr;21(4):299-314.

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