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Yoga Therapy

Not only can it lift your spirit and elongate your muscles, but yoga also appears to relieve the nagging pain of carpal tunnel syndrome as well.

And researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia have the science to prove it. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association goes a long way toward validating the benefits of a practice that is still considered by many as an ''alternative'' therapy.

Forty-two subjects, ages 24 to 77 years, with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a debilitating condition believed to be caused by repetitive motions that increase the pressure on the nerves that pass between the bones of the wrist, were split into one of two groups.

Patients in the first group did not exercise, but were given the option of wearing wrist splints.

The other group attended one-hour yoga sessions, twice a week for eight weeks. Classes consisted of 11 yoga postures targeting the joints of the upper-body.

The postures were based on the Iyengar approach to hatha yoga, which, according to the study's researchers, ''emphasizes proper structural alignment of the body.'' (A complete instruction list of the postures used in this study is available in the November 11, 1998 issue of JAMA.)

Those in the yoga group showed improvement in both grip strength and pain reduction; some patients even reported improvements four weeks after concluding the program.

Given the significant economic impact of CTS and other occupationally-related health problems, studies such as this one that demonstrate the benefits of a relatively low-cost therapy are bound to make employers and health-insurance carriers sit up and take notice.

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998; 280, 1601-1603