How to Prevent the 5 Most Common Yoga Injuries
As I get older, the more yoga I need to perform. Why? Because yoga is a great injury prevention and rehabilitation tool that increases flexibility and balance.
I don't know about you, but some days it can be hard to bend over to tie my shoe.
Did I just drop something? Some days I have to decide if the effort of trying to pick it up is worth whatever I dropped.
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Sometimes I pick it up, other times I kick it under the refrigerator.
Yoga is low impact, gives you a mindful approach to moving, and just because a class is labeled "gentle" doesn't mean you won't have an injury.
Dennis Cardone is an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center. He has been noted saying " there's a perception that whatever you do on your mat is automatically safe. It's simply not true. It may lead to a false sense of security and overconfidence — a dangerous mix that can result in a chronic issue in the long run.
I personally like to use yoga to warm up for other exercises. It helps me lower my risk of injuries as a result. But just like lifting weight, improper form can cause some problems.
Here are the five most common yoga injuries and how to prevent them.
Preventing Common Yoga Injuries
#1 - Wrist Pain
According to Cardone, wrist pain may be one of the top complaints. Many fast-moving yoga practices have you jumping back into a plank pose and then jumping forward can cause this pain.
In other styles of yoga, a common instruction is to get into a plank and then tilt forward. This forces the forearms to go past your wrists and over time you could strain your wrists.
“Our wrists were not meant to bear our entire weight, that’s just not in our physical design,” says Cardone. “If it’s done briefly, there’s usually not much of a problem. But when the wrists are loaded with weight, over and over, then chronic pain can result.”
Try to distribute your weight throughout the body. Instead of simply pushing forward in less-intensive poses like a plank or downward dog. You'll keep the stress off of your hands and wrist.
Make sure to significantly warm up if you are going to attempt a handstand. This will improve your alignment.
#2 - Hamstring Strain
Hamstring attachment issues are pretty common when you compare it to those who do other types of activities.
At the top of your hamstring, tendons attach to the sit bone. There's a tiny area deep inside the bottom of your glutes that can tear slightly when you repeatedly overstretch. Poses like forward folds could cause a strain if you improperly do them or go at it too aggressively.
These tears cause scar tissue to form and that can make the tendon even tighter.
And what do you do with an already tense tendon? It isn't stretch it like many students think. That just makes it worse.
Instead, to minimize your chances of this injury happening, you need to bend the knees and consciously engage or tighten your hamstrings. This issue happens when the hamstring releases and has some slack as we hinge forward.
This can cause a sharp tug on the attachment tendon, resulting in the injury.
#3 - Rotator Cuff Injuries
If you have poor posture or tight shoulders, the yoga poses that have you bring your arms above your head could cause injury if done improperly.
Your rotator cuff has four muscles that stabilize your shoulder. These wrap around the joint from the back, front, and top and connect the ball of the joint into the shoulder socket.
Oftentimes these muscles are underworked which cause them to become weaker. This means a vigorous yoga class can pose a big risk. Many poses rely on using weights or sequences that heavily rely on shoulder strength — this can overwork your rotator cuff and cause compression and inflammation.
It's no fun.
So protect your rotator cuffs by strengthening your arms gradually. Keep your elbows closer to your body rather than letting your elbow flair out — this can cause a strain in weak rotator cuff muscles.
#4 - Neck Tightness
As phones become more popular, this "text neck" phenomena is now really a thing. You know, the head tilted forward all the way... all of the time... on your phone.
This increases the load on your neck and spine.
This can lead to weakened neck muscles that are more prone to injury in certain poses. I've noticed it, especially when you twist your head one way or while you are trying to constantly look up in a pose like an upward facing dog.
Camel poses are another tough one because students will let their head fall back. This seems like it's releasing the neck muscles, but you're actually putting more pressure on them.
Improve your posture and give your neck a chance to survive by increasing your shoulder strength. This can help support the neck better.
#5 - Lower Back Pain
Last, but certainly not least, is lower back pain. Yoga is great for the back and hips, but it can also be a contributor to the pain if not properly executed.
“This happens most with people who feel competitive about yoga,” Cardone notes. “They try to touch their hands to the floor even though they haven’t been able to do that before, or they lock their knees when bending forward, thinking that’s the ‘right’ way to do it.”
Yoga isn't a competition so quit trying to progress further and improve your alignment. If you have lower back issues already, limit the amount of twisting, or do them gently with minimal twisting so you do not make your issue worse.
Talk to your teacher before class to let them know about your injury. They may have a modification to suggest.