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Wrist and Forearm Pain in Downward Facing Dog

April 19, 2016

Now that your yoga practice is underway you’re becoming aware of what it feels like to move your body in this manner.  As you create a consistent practice you’ll find that you’ll become accustomed to poses (Asana in Sanskrit) and the transitions between them and over time your movements will become more fluid.  You may experience considerable feelings as you are in the process of strengthening and changing the shape of muscle fibers throughout your entire body.

 

However, what happens if you begin to encounter sensations in your body, which feel less than ideal?  A common question I am asked is, “Why do my wrists and forearms hurt in downward facing dog?”

 

In order to answer this question a bit of soft tissue anatomy knowledge is necessary. There are four extensors of the wrist and fingers. Located on the posterior side of the forearm, they are: the Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus, Extensor Carpi Radials Brevis, Extensor Carpi Ulnaris, and Extensor Digitorum.

 

 

Stand and lift an arm so it’s parallel with the ground, then face your palm forward so your fingers lift toward the ceiling.

Think…. “Stop! In the name of love!!”  Ahhh, I digress…

When these muscles concentrically contract (meaning the muscle fibers shorten) they cause the wrist to come into a position called extension.

 

Alternatively, on the anterior side of the forearm are the flexors:

the Flexor Carpi Radialis, Palmaris Longus, and Flexor Carpi Ulnaris. 

In this same hand position these muscles eccentrically contract (muscle fibers lengthen). 

 

 

 

 

So, why is this information important?  Let’s investigate…

 

Take some time to notice your current range of motion in your wrists. Make a list of many of the tasks you perform throughout the day with your hands. When you take a moment to realize what you do with your hands (drink beverages, write notes, type at your computer, drive, and scroll through social media apps) you’ll soon notice that your wrists are either in a neutral or flexed position many hours throughout the day.  Now, let’s look at the anatomy of downward facing dog…. You are not only putting your writs in extension but you’re adding gravity and your body weight into the equation! Ouch!! Sure that can cause a bit of uncomfortable sensations and since downward facing dog is a pose you’ll find in most yoga classes you may feel like there’s no relief.

 

But alas, there is! 

In Yoga Tune Up®, before we do any work on the muscles we begin with a “Check In.”

First, face your palms down on a flat surface with your fingers facing you and your thumbs facing out. Attempt to press the entire surface of your palms from  your fingertips to the base of your palms flat onto the surface.  Stay here for a few breaths and notice the range of motion in your wrists.  Ask yourself, “How does this feel?  Do your palms rest easily? Does it take a lot of effort to press down?”

Check out Jill Miller, the creator of Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model Method below as she demonstrates Piano Fingers.  I love Piano Fingers because it’s a double whammy, as it strengthens and articulates the muscles of the forearm, wrists, and fingers.

 

Video of Piano fingers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Follow it with a delicious Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball massage, the Forearm Meltdown, which targets the extensors of the wrist and fingers can be found on pp. 319-321 in The Roll Model by Jill Miller, seek instruction from a Yoga Tune Up® instructor in your area, or check my schedule for weekly classes in Chicago, IL. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I perform both of these daily and many of my students have experienced profound relief from the soreness in their wrists and forearms and are able to enjoy their yoga practice without pain.

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