There are a lot of medical conditions that can affect your hands or wrist and can lead to nerve and tendon damage. Usually conditions that affect the hands are caused by prolonged activities that can put stress on the muscles, bones and wrist. One medical condition of the wrist is yips, and it can be a long-term debilitating condition.
Yips is a medical condition that occurs as spasms in the wrist and is common among golfers. Yips can affect anyone who plays sports such as baseball and darts, so a variety of people could be affected with the condition. Wrist spasms can be painful and also can lead to long-term muscle or nerve damage in the hands and fingers. Someone who has yips will have involuntary spasms in their wrist which will occur intermittently. The wrist spasms would be worse during a high-pressure situation such as a big sporting event or game. The biggest problem with yips is that it can occur at the beginning, middle or end of the sport. The causes of yips vary depending upon your specific situation but it is important to know the most common causes.
One cause of yips could be a neurological malfunction known as focal dystonia. Focal dystonia is a condition that can cause involuntary muscle contractions during specific activities. Usually the neurological cause of yips is from an overuse or prolonged use of a certain muscle during the activity, which is similar to a cramp. If you are easily excited or have anxiety while performing the task, it will make the yips worse. Yips might also be caused by a psychological situation such as being anxious of self-focused. If you are over thinking the situation or sport to the point of hampering your abilities to play, then it could cause the spasms. When you get yips as a psychological cause it might also be called “choking” because this is a type of performance anxiety associated with sports. For instance, it you are trying to put and you are distracted to the point of being impaired, then it will compromise your game and cause you to choke. These performance-related anxieties are a high trigger for yips because your muscles tense up. There are also a variety of risk factors associated with yips, and they are important to know so you can determine whether you might be affected.
Neurological yips have a variety of risk factors associated with it such as being an older age. If you have more experience in your sport, then you might also be more prone to yips. A lower handicap would also put you in the risk category for developing yips, due to the impact of playing the game well has on your mental state. Psychological yips on the other hand can develop at any age and experience level. When you have the yips during an important game, your confidence will lower and you will start to have a performance anxiety. Someone who has psychological yips will continue to think about the reoccurrence of the yips and anxiety will set in, which is why people call it choking. When you feel anxious or stressed about the situation reoccurring, you will then see the involuntary spasms in your wrist. The spasms in your wrist will continue to get worse as your anxiety builds, especially if you keep thinking about the yips. Basically, the more you think about getting the yips, the more likely it is to occur again. Once you have established that you are indeed experiencing yips, you can begin to find a treatment plan to help you recover.
Since yips are usually related to overuse of a specific muscle, the treatment relies on a variety of changes during your game. There are also various types of equipment on the market that can help you change your technique or stabilize your wrist during the sport. One thing you can do to help yourself recover from yips is to change how you grip the object. Changing how you hold the object can help change the muscles you use to do the sport or motion, which is a great way to put the pressure off the overused muscles. Changing the grip or the way you hold the object will not help however if your yips are caused by performance anxiety, so it is important to figure out which type you have.
You might also consider wearing protective equipment during your sport to help ease the involuntary wrist spasms. There are a variety of items on the market that can help stabilize your hand and wrist, which would be a good way to ease the yips. If you are a golfer then you should look at getting a different putter with a special gripper that is designed to keep your hand and wrist stabilized. Not all sports will have equipment to help you perform your sport while stabilizing your wrist or hand though. In those cases you might think about getting a standard wrist brace, these can significantly increase the support to your wrist and ease the involuntary spasms.
Mental skills training might also help you get rid of the yips and it involves a variety of techniques. For instance, positive thinking is actually one of the easiest ways you can mentally train yourself to get rid of the yips. If you are thinking positive about the experience or the sport then you will help reduce your performance-related anxiety. Positive thinking will also help boost your self confidence and help your concentration. You might also use breathing techniques and relaxation or visualization to help yourself get over the yips. These techniques could be like deep-breathing meditation or yoga before you play the sport, which can significantly reduce the chance of developing the yips. You might also try visualizing yourself during the game and doing well which can also help reduce the performance anxiety and put your mind at ease.
Whether the choking is because of a neurological malfunction or a psychological issue, it is a real medical condition that needs to be taken seriously. Although anyone can get the yips for a variety of reasons the most common group to get the condition are athletes. For most people, they do not need to see a doctor for their condition because the treatment lies within their mind and body. If you have the yips then you should not give up playing the sport, you should just focus on healing your mind, body and spirit. Having the yips does not have to keep you from doing what you love and once you find a treatment that works for you, the yips will usually disappear on their own.
Mayo Clinic Staff, “Yips”, Mayo Clinic