Finger Yoga
Finger Yoga


Are these exercises safe?

No, maybe not.

In general, yoga is a powerful tool for change that must be used with care.

In the case of finger stretching, there are several reasons to urge caution.

Firstly, there is no particularly good reason to think that many of our ancestors did much finger stretching. Intensive finger stretching is probably strange and unusual passtime. This probably means that any dangerous areas may not be well protected with pain sensors.

Secondly, the wrist is a known mechanical weak point, where tendons pass curve over bones. Applying force to the tendons while they are curved may drag them sideways into the surrounding tissues - where they may cause problems.

Lastly - and perhaps most importantly - the flexor tendons are surrounded by subsynovial connective tissue (SSCT). This tissue is delicate and prone to damage. On the basis of mechanical considerations, flexor over-extension is a likely cause of SSCT damage. If damage is sufficiently severe the tissue catastrophic collapse - and is then very difficult to heal. Collapse of the SSCT may eventually lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

At the time of writing there is no known epidemological link between flexor stretching and the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome. However no studies appear to have investigated the issue.

Details about the hypothesised role of subsynovial connective tissue in the pathogenesis of carpal tunnel syndrome are available here.

Stretching is commonly recommended by many as a therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome. However, there is little or no evidence to indicate that it is beneficial - and it may well frequently cause more harm than good. Sometimes it is argued by analogy with tendon disorders in other parts of the body that stretching may be theraputic - but the micro-anatomy of the carpal tunnel tendons is very different from any other part of the body, so such arguments are highly suspect.

Even the relatively mild finger flexor stretches in conventional hatha yoga poses may cause damage.

Prospective finger stretchers should investigate these issues for themselves.

My assessment of the moral of this is not that you should not stretch your finger flexors. Stretching these is important to their long-term health. However, it does suggest reasons to stretch these tissues extremely gently and carefully.

Tim Tyler | Contact |