Harriet is Yoga Kula’s resident Massage Therapist, being a Kuli and a therapist, she understands how we can use yoga correctly to strengthen ourselves and prevent injury, here she talks about alignment for preventing wrist injuries.

There is no getting away from the fact that our hands are a primary tool that we need to use for everyday tasks. An injury in the hand or wrist can be debilitating and the rehabilitation process difficult as we can’t get around using them.

Because of the use of modern technology we sometimes can’t avoid repetitive movements such as typing, texting, or using a keypad/mouse. One of the most frequent types of wrist conditions today is RSI (repetitive strain injury), such as carpel tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. RSI stems from repetition but are is often brought on by poor postural habits, as well as workplace ergonomics.

Other more acute injuries like sprains and strains caused by poor alignment or lack of flexibility may be managed effectively. When the shoulders and upper back don’t provide a supportive structural base for arm movements, the burden of the activity may fall on the smaller joints. Furthermore, poor alignment in the shoulders and upper back can constrict nerves in the arms, which can manifest as pain, swelling, and numbness in the wrists. Restriction in the neck and shoulders can hugely impede blood flow and nerve transmission to and from the wrists. Because of this good shoulder alignment is imperative to allow this flow to happen.

Most of us are too short in our front bodies. The position people adopt when texting is quite unlike any other. Text neck is slowly becoming the slumping phenomenon. If the muscles at the front of the body such as the chest and neck are too tight we are pulled too far forward to utilise the shoulder and back muscles. This imbalance doesn’t allow us to use the rhomboids which retract the shoulders or the complex rotator cuff muscles fanning the scapula girdle. These are used for actions such as throwing a ball, opening a door or pouring a kettle. This often occurs with people practicing ashtanga a lot as the repetitive press ups pull the shoulder forward and tighten the chest, not allowing for engagement in the back of the shoulder. 

Like most areas of the body we need to make sure these areas are long yet strong enough so strength and stretch are essential. 

Wrist stretches – flexion and extension 

Prayer ? position 

Chest opener using a wall stretch or reclining over a bolster, blankets, a brick or even a rolled up towel is a great counteraction to chest tightness. 

Shoulder retractions allow engagement of the scapula muscles that prevent winging.

The three poses wrist pain is most obvious in are chaturanga, upward and downward facing dog. With poor alignment, undue pressure is placed through the wrist. Adaptations may require dropping to forearms or to the knees in a press up position to take weight out of the hand. Add to that a winging scapula where the muscles around the shoulder blade aren’t strong enough to keep it under control and pain occurs. 

So to summarise how to avoid wrist pain:

  • Distribute pressure through the hand using the guide above.
  •  Maintain correct alignment of the wrist in weight bearing activities. In yoga terms the 3 poses most frequently used are chaturanga, upward and downward facing dog.
  • Keep open in chest so shoulder and back muscles can be utilised – either through stretching or massage and strengthening back. If the neck / upper back muscles are too tight they may need relaxing through soft tissue massage work. 

Harriet will be teaching a module on our TTC course on injury prevention.