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Yoga eases pain of carpal tunnel syndrome

A simple yoga program -- no drugs, no expensive equipment and no surgery -- was better than conventional treatment at reducing pain and improving the hand strength of patients with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, according to a new study at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.

Common among computer users, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a potentially debilitating nerve disorder of the hand usually caused by repetitive motion, like typing. It results from pressure on the median nerve, which controls sensations in the thumb, index and middle fingers. The condition can be so painful that many sufferers cannot use their affected hand.

The randomized, single blind, controlled study included a yoga group and a group who only received wrist splints, the most common form of treatment. The yoga group took a 1.5 hour class twice a week. They performed simple postures designed to take each joint of the upper body through its full range of motion, stretching, strengthening and aligning the hands, wrists, arms and shoulders. After eight weeks, the yoga group had significantly less pain and greater hand strength, whereas the control group experienced no significant reduction in pain or increase in hand strength.

The postures used in the program included:

  1. Staff pose (dandasana) -- sit on chair, trunk upright, press hands into chair, press shoulder baldes into back, move shoulders back and down.
  2. Prayer position -- press palms and fingers together, stretch and bend fingers.
  3. Arms overhead (urdhva hastasana) -- Lift arms over head, keep arms straight and shoulders down
  4. Arms overhead, fingers interlocked (parvatasana) -- Same as above, clasp fingers, turn palms upward.
  5. Chair twist -- sit sideways in chair with right side against back of chair. Place hands on back of chair, twist to the right using hands for additional support. Repeat on other side.
  6. Mountain (tadasana) -- see Posture Page.
  7. 90 degree forward bend to wall -- Stand with feet about hip width apart, raise arms over head, bend at hips bringing hands to rest on wall.
  8. Arms overhead with hands in prayer position -- Stand in tadasana, raise arms to Tee position, urn palms up, then rotate arms in small circles, first forward then back. Lift arms straight overhead, join hands in prayer position, stretch up and look up at hands.
  9. Dog pose with chair -- Stand, feet hip width apart, facing the seat of a chair. Bend, placing palms on seat, shoulder width apart. Straighten arms and lift waist, hips and knees a few inches above the chair. Turn arms out and crve trunk back between them. Bring coccyx, sacrum and lumbar spine forward, keeping buttocks tight. Stetch front of body from the pubis. Raise sternum and ribs. Hold shoulders back. Press shoulder blades and dorsal spine in.
  10. Hands in prayer behind back -- Stand in tadasana, bring palms together behind back, fingers pointing up down. Turn fingers up and raise as high as possible between the shoulder blades.
  11. Relaxation

    Each posture should be held for about 30 seconds.

From "Yoga-based intervention for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A randomized trial," by M. Garfinkel, A. Singhal, W. Katz, et al, in The Journal of the American Medical Association, November 11, 1998.

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