When I first began practicing yoga 15 years ago, I was a young, enthusiastic, ex-athlete looking for a practice that could replace the hours spent running up and down a basketball court. It may come as no surprise that I found satisfaction in a dynamic Vinyasa style practice. After a few years of happily flowing through countless planks and chaturangas, I started feeling a stiffness in my left wrist. Since it didn’t hurt, I ignored it and continued planking on. It wasn’t long before my left wrist would be sore for days after a particularly vigorous practice. Despite the symptoms, I did not attempt to treat the source of my discomfort other than resting my wrist for a few days until I was once again able to put pressure on it.

It wasn’t long before a soft, painful swelling appeared on my wrist. Continuing to ignore the source of my wrist discomfort, the pain began to persist, sometimes lasting months on end. I finally began to adjust my practice (planks, chaturangas on elbows) but pulling back on the vigorous-ness was too late. After a particularly long bout of swelling, I visited the doctor who confirmed that the pliable growth on my wrist was a ganglion cyst, an out-pouching or distention of a weakened portion of a joint capsule or tendon sheath.

Unfortunately, there were no obvious solutions to my wrist tension, stiffness, and tightness. My doctor tried to drain it with a huge, scary needle, but the cyst fluid was too thick. I tried acupuncture, physiotherapy, ultrasound therapy and osteopathy to no success. One colleague told me to “power through it” while another told me to slam a book down on it to rupture and drain the cyst into the surrounding tissues (both of which I did not do). I even had a consultation with a plastic surgeon who told me he could remove it, but doing so would leave me with a 2-inch scar and the inability to use my left hand for up to six weeks. I passed on this option because the surgeon could still not guarantee that the cyst would not return.

The extensor digitorum is one of four extensors of the wrist and hand.

The extensor digitorum is one of four extensors of the wrist and hand.

Discouraged, I decided that the best solution was defeated complacency – to just live with it. Suddenly, it became an area I closed myself off to and just avoided, even when my compensation climbed up to my left shoulder. One day, a few years later, I was lucky enough to have a treatment with a body worker who had experience working with the artists of the Cirque du Soleil. During a full body massage he quickly noticed that my forearm muscles, particularly my extensor digitorum, were as “tight as an old piece of leather and hard as wood.”

The extensor digitorum is one of four extensors of the wrist and hand. It’s located between the extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis and the extensor carpi ulnaris, and has four long, superficial tendons stretching along the dorsal surface of the hand and fingers (Trail Guide, 3rd p. 143). This meaty forearm muscle assists in extending the wrist and extends the 2nd through 5th fingers. Each time we plank, chaturanga, downward dog, arm balance, or even push a door open, we are contracting our forearm extensor muscles.

Thus began numerous sessions of long hours of the body worker applying deep, sustained pressure to my left forearm with his fingers. The cyst slowly shrunk in size until it disappeared all together! Feeling positive about my recovery, I researched additional ways to relieve wrist pain to take care of my wrists and forearms. The Yoga Tune Up® Quick Fix videos and the Roll Model® Therapy Balls were a Godsend and key to my maintaining my forearm health.

Come back on Friday to read about which exercises have helped me stay cyst-free for five years (and counting)!

 

Enjoyed this article? Read Yoga Tune Up® Your Fingers!

Dawn Mauricio

Dawn is a yoga and meditation teacher with a playful, dynamic, and centered approach. She is known for her effective balance of clear, precise instruction and mental reflection. She first began practicing yoga in 2000 as a purely physical discipline. After she completed her first silent meditation retreat at a Thai monastery, her interest in the mind and body deepened. She began to experience how yoga and meditation mutually support each other, leading her to approach the world with awareness and kindness as a gateway to wisdom. Since 2006, Dawn has received teaching certifications from Spirit Rock Meditation Centre, True North Insight, Naada Yoga, and in the Yoga Tune Up method. She also continues to attend silent meditation retreats in Burma, Thailand, Canada and the US, and to study with senior teachers in both yoga and meditation. Dawn firmly believes that how we offer ourselves in practice reflects how we offer ourselves in life, inspiring her to find new ways to extend her practice beyond the yoga mat and meditation cushion - and encourages her students to do the same.

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Patricia

Hi ! Could someone tell me if it’s dangerous to massage a cyst, and also how do you make the difference between an adhesion and a cyst when assessing the myofascial fabric ?

Tune Up Fitness

Hello Patricia,

This is a great question! It looks like a thread that has been taken up and answered by a variety of practitioners in our Yoga Tune Up Teacher’s Group. It looks like you’ve received some interesting perspectives – thank you again for your question, grateful to have you as part of our community.

Kim

Thanks for sharing your story Dawn! It reminds us how important it is to listen to our body and that the problem/ solution isn’t necessary where it hurts. (I’m also horrified, but not surprised, by the traditionel healing treatment offered… I think that’s one of the main reason why I’m studying the human body, I wanna be able to take my own decision knowingly instead of someone telling me what he thinks I should do).

Lorraine Gaston

Hi Dawn, thanks for sharing a great article. I broke my wrist last year and I’m only beginning to be able to do plank now with my wrist extended. Its quite an impact and effects your whole practice when you are used to vinyasa. I’m still seeing a “hand therapist” but I’ll check out your exercises. Lorraine

Mira

Thanks for the great article Dawn! So many good nuggets in here, including the strong message and reminder to LISTEN to our bodies rather than pushing through it. I’m really glad that you found the body worker who was able to help you.

Grant

Thank you for your article! I’ve tried to explain to so many vinyasa flow students how repetitive movement without a good active recovery strategy can lead to pain in somewhat unexpected areas. I’m also curious if you ever returned to planking and if you changed your technique at all? I’ve noticed with some of my students they often like to over grip with their hands (only stabilizing with their hands) rather than focus on the serratus and the other muscles close to the center of their body. Did you find something similar or was it simply too many planks!

Nancy

Thank you Dawn for your article!
The wrists are small joints with which to be careful. Your patience reward you are small joints.

Mary

Thank you for a great read, Dawn. I love hearing how people modify their yoga practice to suit their unique physical needs. The more we share these stories, the more people new to yoga (and even experienced yogis) will learn that it is not only okay but also wise to modify poses for their bodies. I love how well Yoga Tune Up® has cultivated this mentality in its students and teachers. As we learn to honor and respect our bodies and our limits, we will reach new levels of strength and stability and a better quality of life.

Erin Kintzing

Thank you for writing this article! I’m so happy to hear that a homeopathic treatment was healing for you. My mom had a ganglion cyst several years ago and got similar advice to slam a book on it and I was horrified! I wish I had read this article years ago. I cannot recall how she got rid of hers, but she now has severe arthritis in her hand for which she recently got surgery. I wonder if the two were related? I am really excited to share this post and some Therapy Ball practices with my mom. Thanks!

Erin Kintzing

Wow– thank you for writing this article! My mom had a ganglion cyst several years ago and got similar advice to slam a book on it and I was horrified! I wish I had read this article years ago. I cannot recall how she got rid of hers, but she now has severe arthritis in her hand for which she recently got surgery. I wonder if the two were related? I’m so happy to hear that a homeopathic treatment was healing for you. I am really excited to share this post and some Therapy Ball practices with my mom. Thanks!

Josiane O'Rourke

Chère Dawn! Merci pour ton article. J’ai une amie qui a un kyste au poignet depuis plusieurs années, et je vais m’assurer de partager cet article avec elle. Let’s share the hope!

Athena Vassilatos

I did not know about this sort of problem before reading your article. This is a great reminder to listen to any sign your body is giving you and also of course to take care of your body. You just confirmed my instinct to massage my forearms after an inversions/handstand class!

Michelle Pitman

I too have had to modify my Vinyasa practice considerably – plank, chaturangas and downward facing dog – are currently not part of my flow due to neck and shoulder injury. Now that I’m taking the YTU level 1 training and learning other, safer exercises to strengthen the upper back and shoulder muscles, I’m questioning whether to even add back some of these traditional poses into my practice. Bottom line: I’m learning a new awareness of my body, what it needs right now and honouring its need for gentle strength and rest, instead of powering through. Thank you for sharing… Read more »

Christina

Thanks for sharing your story, this is a great cautionary tale of what will happen when you constantly ignore what your body is trying to tell you about your practice.

Jen Wheaton

Both a nice reminder of the damage we can do to our bodies by “powering through” pain or injuries, as well as the fact that we have the power to heal ourselves with a little investigation (as you did in educating yourself (and your readers) about the extensor digitorum). I’m sure that the work that your great PT ended up doing applying sustained pressure with his fingers to the forearm could be replicated with YTU balls as well. Skin rolling and sustained compression, and also maybe pressing your arm into a ball situated on a block? Love that this method… Read more »

Chris

This is such a wonderful reminder that even “productive discomfort” can be slowly damaging our bodies, and to take time to be aware when that discomfort persists. Plus, I love a good mystery, and putting pain in this context means there is a “crime” against my body that needs to be solved. A friend of mine has ganglion cyst right now, and has been given all kinds of advice, but none of it has been related to possible forearm tension. I emailing her right now to hopefully put her on a path to healing!

Georgia Lowe

This is a great, detailed story that I know is familar to many. You illuminate the emotional tension that comes when your body cannot cooperate with your desires, and the funk that follows. I appreciate the honesty and hope you convey. Inspiring.

Kris K

All too familiar with having pain and ignoring it. this is the true gift of YTU for me. i am now hyper-sensitive to any discomfort and back off even with the smallest amount of pain. it’s a lesson of pulling back and i’m happy that your injury was reversible. thanks for the post!

Vanessa Coulombe

Thanks you! Good article!

Emily Lunoe

Thank you for sharing. This is an amazing cautionary tale for those of us who are ignoring wrist pain! I’m happy for you that you were able to avoid an invasive treatment.

Tami Cole

Its very empowering to hear that you and people everywhere are starting to move towards self health care. I know doctors can do many great things but I don’t think they (or surgery) should be the automatic first response when dealing with certain ailments. Because of your experience and wise words, I will be a better student of my body during and after my practice to notice if what I’m doing is healing or hurting me physically, mentally or emotionally.

Monique Blackman

I have a student who has had this cyst surgically removed once and it has come back, because like you said, the surgeon could not guarantee that it would not. Her once thriving practice is has turned into once in a while practice when her wrist is not bothering her. I will definitely send this blog post to her. She needs to read it. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Kathryn

Thank you for sharing this. I had no idea once could develop cysts in that part of the body from overuse. I use to practice Ashtanga religiously and had to stop before I permanently messed my shoulder and lower back up. I currently practice plank often and will keep this mind. Again thank you for sharing your experience!

Samantha Martin

Great article and such a testimony to how easy it is for us to ignore pain and symptoms hoping the issue will magically disappear. I love that you found a natural alternative and haven’t had the cyst return.

Gale Claire

Wow, thank you for sharing you extensor digitorum story : )
I often find that clients feel more invasive therapies are the only option for developed issues. This is a great example of how powerful and corrective physical therapies can be. Also, thank you for reinforcing the importance of yielding to discomfort by stopping the practice or finding modifications.

Olga

Wow, very impressive. And it is a very common problem, I see a lot of people suffering from wrist pain during regular yoga classes. It would be very useful for them to read this article and try YTU therapy balls

Jonathan

These are still muscles to keep strong, to avoid further injury to shoulder and neck

Judith

thanks Dawn, my daughter has cyst that come and go at her wrist – she does like to workout alot. I will share this article with her.

Janie Hickman

I had a ganglion yet on my right wrist in 1979, the days when they used to operate to remove them. Being a hygienist, my hands were important to me and I hoped the surgery would be successful. Unfortunately, the cyst returned and a different surgeon removed the recurring cyst. Luckily it never returned and I as able to work as a hygienist without any problems. Times and methods of treatment have changed for the better, thankfully.

Karen Smereka

As C. Chiu says this is an awesome story. I continue to be amazed at myself and others ability to ignore and persist through pain. Does anybody know where this impulse comes from? I’m so intrigued by it. Does anybody have any reference materils to read about this?

Caitlin

The power of massage is a beautiful thing and the fact that through YTU therapy balls we can massage ourselves is amazing. It is crazy to me how out of touch conventional doctors are to the whole body just simply treating the symptoms…scary actually

Christiane Parcigneau

This is a great reminder of the need to respect our body’s abilities – and limitations! – in the moment.

Sarah

My ears pricked up when I started reading this article. I have started to notice stifness in my right wrist in plank and many arm balances. I was dismissing it as being too much time spent OFF my mat and that the solution was to get back at it and do more planks to regain the extension in my wrists! I am going to seriously re-think before I move on. Thanks!

Alexandra L

This article resonates with me tremendously. I may no longer play the same sports I used to because of certain injuries, so I sought out a very vigorous asana practice. For years, chaturanga dandasana was one of my favourite poses (and still is) but over the last few months I’ve begun to have pain and inflammation in my right wrist. Just recently, I begun using my YTU balls to roll out my forearms and it’s magical! Looking forward to the continuity of this article! Thanks for sharing!

C. Chiu

Awesome story. My friend had a similar cyst. She pressed it one day and it burst and disappeared, but she didn’t know how it developed or why it was there. I will send her this article!

Lesley

A great story to use in class if trying to stress the importance of respecting the body when signs of strain or injury show up. Over the last few years I have suffered a strain in my shoulder around the top of the supraspinatus muscle layered over with a very tight upper trapizius, The chiropractor recommended strengthening the rotator cuffs to help the area balance out. I’ve ignored the fact that my vinyasa practice has probably caused this but can no longer do this. Yoga Tune Up exercises are helping to create awareness in this area of my body and… Read more »

Atulya

I guess you powered through, but in a different way. Never give up! Good job.