Yoga has become very popular as a gentle form of exercise, but many people don't realize that yoga can lead to many of the same injuries and strains as other types of exercise. Injuries can stem from improper form, repetitive strain or other factors. Additionally, many people turn to yoga to help heal pain and injuries that haven't been alleviated through traditional medicine.
These issues may only be exacerbated with yoga exercises instead of healed, because their yoga poses may not be properly adjusted for existing injuries and conditions. Let's look at some of the most common yoga injury areas and what you can do to help alleviate injuries.
The wrists normally see a lot of overuse and strain in our daily lives, and certain yoga poses can aggravate existing pain in these small joints. Poses like downward-facing dog and planking positions can place pressure on the wrists, especially for those who are new to yoga.
To prevent wrist pain during yoga, be sure to warm up properly. When starting a pose that puts pressure on the wrists, go slowly instead of putting your full body weight on your wrists right away. Make sure you're distributing your weight properly and spreading your fingers wide.
Knee injuries are quite common in all types of exercises, and yoga knee injuries are no exception. One study suggested that yoga practice could lead to meniscus tears. Cross-legged yoga poses can be especially tough on the knees and anyone with existing knee pain. Lunging poses can also present a problem, especially if not properly aligned.
Perhaps surprisingly, many knee injuries stem from issues in other parts of the body such as the hips or ankles. Proper yoga form can help prevent injury and strain and involves appropriate body alignment while exercising. If you are doing a standing yoga pose with a bent knee, aim to align your knee over your middle toe, or imagine a straight line from knee to heel. Never lock your knees in any position.
For seated positions, you can ease knee strain by using a rolled-up blanket, towel or yoga block under your knees for extra cushion and support. For all poses, better flexibility — especially in the hips — can significantly ease knee strain.
Some of the most common yoga injuries occur in the shoulders, spine and elbows, and many of them are repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), which come from repeated motions that put stress on the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. These RSIs in the spine, shoulders and elbows often occur from practicing a yoga pose repeatedly without using proper form or alignment.
One of the most vital things to do is listen to your body if yoga shoulder or spine injuries or elbow strain are a concern. Many yoga classes include modifications to poses and routines to offer a more intense workout. But if you're feeling any stress or pain in your joints, it's OK not to do these extra moves. You can also modify some poses to be gentler on your joints.
Another thing you can do is to avoid shrugging or tensing up your shoulders. With certain poses and exercises, it might be easy to tighten and shrug your shoulders up toward your ears. However, this leads to improper alignment and causes you to lose the support of all your neck, shoulder and arm muscles. This phenomenon, in turn, can cause muscle and joint injuries in the affected areas. Relax your shoulders and focus on good alignment.
Lower back pain and injuries are common across all activities and are common in yoga. These injuries often stem from poses that round out the back, as in the downward-facing dog or forward fold. In these types of poses, the spine may curve in a way that it's not used to, potentially leading to disc problems and back strain. Try to keep your back as straight as possible when bending, and lengthen your spine. Use pose modifications when necessary, and work on strengthening your core muscles to help with back pain.
Yoga poses like headstands and shoulder stands can put intense pressure on the neck. These poses lead to compression on the spine and put pressure on the cervical vertebrae. Many neck injuries in yoga come from improper support in certain positions, so be sure to use your arms and shoulders to fully support and align your body properly. Never force yourself into a pose that feels too awkward, and always reach out to your instructor for advice on alignment when needed, as neck injuries can be quite serious.
Overstretched hamstrings are especially common for anyone who spends much of their time sitting. Hamstring injuries often occur when you try to stretch too deeply instead of gently warming up to an exercise. They can also occur when you don't have the right alignment and control when stretching. It's best to go slowly, warm up with gentle stretches first and use blocks for modified poses if needed. Engaging your hips and working on your flexibility can also help prevent hamstring injuries.
Having good flexibility in the hips can help you perform better alignment when doing yoga and prevent injuries to the surrounding muscles. Standing positions like the warrior poses can make it easy to overextend the hips, possibly leading to muscle tears in the groin or thighs.
To help prevent this and other injuries, align your hips properly and point your toes forward when you are in a pose with squared-off hips. A good tip is to imagine that you have headlights on your hips pointing forward and you want to shine those lights straight ahead of you at all times.
Contact Mufaddal Gombera, MD for Help With Orthopedic Injuries
If you're having any type of pain after your yoga sessions, it may be time to reach out for help. You don't need to keep suffering through painful exercises when effective treatments are available. Dr. Gombera and his team are here to help you with minimally invasive treatments for injuries to the shoulders, knees, hips and more.
Dr. Gombera will work with you to find the best course of treatment for your situation and get you back to doing what you love. We use the latest medical advancements and minimally invasive solutions to avoid surgery whenever possible, helping you return to your usual lifestyle more quickly. Schedule an appointment today to see what we can do for you.