trapped nerve yoga anatomy

Do I Have a Trapped Nerve?

David Keil Your Questions 1 Comment

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Transcript below of: Do I have a trapped nerve?

Hey everyone, it’s me. I’m back and we have another question to answer this month. If you want to submit your own question, go to yoganatomy.com/my question. This month’s question is from Dunia.

The Question:

“My question concerns nerve entrapment. For a few months I have been experiencing discomfort on the ring and small finger of my left hand. After conducting some research on the internet, [DK: Doctors hate you for that. I’m sure they do.] I seem to understand that the pain, tingling, and loss of grip maybe caused by an entrapment of the ulnar nerve at the neck, elbow, or wrist. That is when I started focusing more on my hands during my practice to notice that I was indeed slightly tilting my hand in postures such as up dog and down dog. That is shifting most of the weight onto the fourth and fifth finger and the external edge of the hand in general.”

“However, I don’t seem to be able to identify where the entrapment takes place, neck, elbow, or wrist. Instinctively, I feel like ruling out the elbow as there isn’t much pressure on it in the primary series. Maybe I’m wrong though. Both the wrist and the neck seem to be viable possibilities.”

The Answer:

Wow, a lot is going on here to talk about actually. Well, let me start with saying nerve entrapment seems like a good educated guess. It’s certainly a possibility but it’s also not the only possibility.

There are a bunch of assumptions here. That one for instance that it is an entrapment. Another alternative is that it’s a trigger point or trigger points that are referring into your hand. I don’t know. I’m not sitting in front of you. We’re not doing this assessment together.

But just keep that in mind. There are other things that could create that tingling and numbness and even circulation. Although, I wouldn’t suspect it with what you’re saying here. There’s also an assumption that it has to do with the way that you’re putting your hand on the mat and that it’s tilting over.

That might have something to do with it. It might not have something to do with it. That might be expressing some other thing that’s going on in your shoulder that is related to all of this. The hand itself might not be the cause. It might be an effect of what’s going on.

I think you’re right. You’re suspecting the three most obvious places, neck, elbow, and wrist. However, I don’t think you should throw out the elbow too quickly.  No, you don’t put a lot of pressure on it doing the type of practice you’re doing.

However, the assumption here is that it’s happening in your practice.  It might be happening outside of your practice. Maybe there are other things that you do with your left hand. Maybe typing, maybe not you specifically, but generally you have to keep in mind that if we work on the computer a lot or we start doing different activities that could cause us to grab things, that could add to tension.

But let’s go through each area by itself and I’ll give you couple of different things to look out for. One is, let’s start with the neck. If you suspect that it might be the neck, something you might want to look for is whether your head is tilted off to that side.

You said your left hand so it would be that direction. Notice if your head is tilted to that direction, then you’re looking for muscles called the scalenes. They could be tight. They can compress the nerves there.

After that point the nerves go down under the clavicle and live underneath a muscle called pectoralis minor, which most people don’t know too much about. Go take a look at pectoralis minor. If it’s compressing the nerves, which it could be doing, then that’s kind of where you want to treat. You’re out of the neck. You’re into a little bit more like the shoulder.

Keep in mind that with both of these, there could also be something going on in the vertebrae, in the discs in your neck, causing all these to happen as well. Keep it as a possibility. I’m not telling you what’s going on with you because I don’t know. That’s another possibility.

As I said, the elbow, look for activities outside of practice maybe that are causing you to grasp things tightly. If it’s the muscles in the forearm here, the flexors, they could be compressing the nerves. By the time you get down to the wrist, it’s possible that they’re getting trapped somewhere in the carpal tunnel. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is traditionally on the other side, the other fingers completely.

It’s not like saying Carpal Tunnel Syndrome but they could be getting caught up there. It’s possible. I would say explore few different things in your practice.

Sometimes what I do with people as an experiment, even though it’s not traditionally how you should put your hands, and I’m not suggesting everybody should do this with their hands, is this: try taking your hand and turning it out a little bit more. See, that’s going to come from the shoulder.

Open the shoulder and see if that maybe changes how flat your hand is and see if that makes a difference in tingling and numbness. The other possibility here is you’ve got a weak grasp going on or your hands feels weak at least. It’s hard to tell.

Based on what you wrote, trigger points are a possibility also. Trigger points in the scalenes even in pectoralis minor or rotator cuff muscles can send tingling-like sensations down into the fingers. The rotator cuff trigger points in particular can generally make the shoulder and arm feel weak. I would take a look at that.

If you want to go to a resource for that, go to triggerpoints.net. Look up some of the muscles. I’ll give you the list real quick. Look at scalenes, pectoralis minor. Look at infraspinatus and subscapularis as other possibilities that could refer into the arm.

Give a little exploration on that site. You might find something else there too. Anyway, all I can do is really give you food for thought. I can’t fix your problem through a video.

Anyway, anyone else who’s got a question throw it my way. I’ll see what I can do about answering it, yoganatomy.com/myquestion. If you haven’t gotten it yet, go ahead and grab a copy of my book. Lots of good food for thought to help give you ways to think about your anatomy, maybe in a bigger, larger perspective.

Maybe you could come up with your own answers. Alright, take care everybody. See you next time.

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About David Keil

This website is simply about delivering yoga anatomy to the yoga community in a simple and understandable way. It has always been about you, the reader, understanding the complexity and diversity of our own humanness as well as our anatomy.

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Comments 1

  1. If the entrapped nerve causes pain it is easy to locate spastic muscles.However numbness do not give pain signals ,hence ,to locate muscles under spasm,which have caused entrapping,becomes difficult,unless very sophisticated instruments are used.
    However as David has suggested various possibilities,they all should be attended one by one.
    Yet the formidable question is how to know that entrapment is released.THe numbness has been caused because of death of nerve recepters and it is almost impossible to regenerate the sensing nerve endings.One way to know that there is improvement is to observe that numbness is not increasing.
    It is cautioned that do not leave the problem as it is,because there is no pain, the absence of pain-numbness- is also an indication of WRONG with the body.
    Apart from trying yoga postures/variations ,it should be tried to increase blood flow in the area of numbness by1) Pranayam-to take the blood supply to that AYAM(location)2) Heat the local area by heating pad or hot water bottle,3) Have alternate hot and cold packs.
    HOWEVER the numbness should not be neglected.

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