As you build a regular yoga practice, you may experience many new bodily sensations as you go through the process of strengthening and changing the resting tone of the muscles throughout your entire body. But what happens if you begin to encounter sensations in your body which feel less than ideal? A common question I am often asked is “Why do my wrists and forearms hurt in downward facing dog?”
In order to answer this question about wrist and arm pain in yoga, 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: extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor carpi radials brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris, and extensor digitorum.
Stand and lift an arm in front of you so it’s parallel with the ground. Extend your wrists by bringing your fingers up towards the ceiling while your palms face forward ( Think…. “Stop! In the name of love!!”) When these muscles concentrically contract (meaning the muscle fibers shorten) they move the wrist into extension at the radioulnar joint.
On the opposite (anterior) side of the forearm are the flexors: flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus, and flexor carpi ulnaris. In this same “Stop in the name of love” hand position, these muscles eccentrically lengthened.
So, why is this information important? Well, let’s investigate…
Take some time to notice the 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 mechanics of Downward Facing Dog – you are not only putting your wrists in extension but also adding gravity and body weight into the equation! Ouch!!
Sure that can cause a bit of discomfort, especially since Downward Facing Dog is one of the most common yoga poses, you may feel like there’s no forearm pain relief in sight. 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 my palms rest easily? Does it take a lot of effort to press down?”
Check out Jill below as she demonstrates Piano Fingers. I love the Piano Fingers exercise because it’s a double whammy, as it strengthens and articulates the muscles of the forearm, wrists, and fingers.
Follow it with a delicious Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball massage, such as the Forearm Fixer below or the Forearm Meltdown, which targets the extensors of the wrist and fingers and can be found on pages 319-321 in The Roll Model by Jill Miller.
You may also consider seeking 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 Check Ins 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.
Do you suffer from wrist pain in yoga? Try these two fixes and let me know in the comments below if they offer you relief!