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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Yoga

Written by sshowalter, FoundHealth.

Hatha yoga, or, as it is commonly called in the US, simply “yoga,” is an exercise system derived from ancient traditions in India. There are many schools or varieties of hatha yoga, but all of them involve “asanas,” or postures. Many asanas function as gentle stretching exercises, increasing flexibility. Others encourage the development of strength and balance.

Effect of Yoga on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Hatha yoga, a system of stretching and balancing exercises, has been tried for carpal tunnel syndrome, and some have found it to be very helpful in mitigating the pain associated with carpal tunnel, as well as perhaps helping to treat the underlying cause of the condition by helping to strengthen the wrist(s).

Read more details about Yoga.

Research Evidence on Yoga

In one study, 42 individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome were randomly assigned to receive either yoga instruction or a wrist splint for a period of 8 weeks.6 The results indicated that yoga was more effective than the wrist splint.

However, this study has a serious flaw: participants in the control group were simply offered the wrist splint and given the choice of using it or not. It would have been preferable for them to have received phony yoga postures to test the treatment in a standard scientifically experimental way. Experience from numerous studies shows that when people believe they are receiving an effective treatment, they report improvement, regardless of the nature of the treatment.

This particular instance shows some of the challenges of testing for the efficacy of complementary, alternative and integrative treatment options (like hatha yoga) in the traditional scientific method. For traditional medical treatment that had one mechanism of action (like, for example, a certain pharmaceutical drug) it makes sense to test this by ruling out all other possible confounds. However, for multi-faceted treatments like yoga (which includes stretching, breathing, meditation, relaxation, aerobic, anaerobic, instruction etc. - all components that might aid in successfully treating the condition) it is difficult to fit them into the limited scientific framework. Science will soon need to evolve so that it can include the study of these complex treatments.

Safety Issues

Hatha yoga is generally at least as safe as any other stretching-based exercise program. However there are a few hatha yoga positions, such as the headstand, that can cause injury when they are performed by a person who isn’t yet sufficiently advanced in yoga, or who has certain health problems, such as a detached retina. A properly qualified instructor can help you avoid injury, taking your own individual health status into account.


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