Friday, September 8, 2017

Fixing Your Achy Wrists

Do you experience pain in your wrists while doing exercises like bench presses or planks? If so, then read on!

As I've mentioned 1,000 times (and you're probably sick of me saying it already), we always have to look distally (farther away) from the area in question. Think of your entire arms as a train. If the shoulder isn't working properly, you bet that you're gonna have elbow and wrist problems too. Take a look at the photo on the right from Thomas Myers' Anatomy Trains. You can see here that the pecs of the chest will influence the structures all of the way down to the fingers.

The number one complaint I hear from clients when doing the front squat is that their wrists hurt them. While the wrist pain is the symptom, the cause typically arises with poor shoulder mobility. If your front rack position is sub-par, your wrists now have to bear the brunt of that load. The lower your elbows are, the more wrist extension you need to compensate. In this instance, you need to work on opening up the pecs and lats to ease the stress on your wrists.

Because of this horrendous shoulder mobility, his wrists suffer.

I see similar problems arise in pressing movements. In the bench press or the overhead press, clients occasionally lack the necessary strength in their forearm flexors, so they fall into a hyperextended wrist position throughout the lift. A more "neutral" wrist position can save them a lot of discomfort. In these cases, the problem might not be mobility, but grip strength. I would have these people do exercises like hangs from the pull-up bar, plate pinches, or farmer walks to combat this. Sometimes, cueing alone can also go a long way to correct this issue.

This image from Liftbigeatbig explains different wrist positions. We never
want significant extension in pressing movements.
Ultimately, if you feel pain in your wrists you have to check out how your shoulders are moving to properly assess the issue. Shoulder instability can manifest itself in a variety of different ways. Continuing to address your wrist alone will have little to no effect. I see a lot of people working to stretch their forearms to alleviate wrist pain, but rarely do they address other possible contributing factors like shoulder stability or grip strength. Global corrections will stimulate an entire chain reaction of positive effects.