How To Prevent Wrist Pain From Weight Lifting

Got wrist pain when lifting? It’s not as uncommon as you may think. Many weight lifters experience sore or aching wrists, causing them to forego that last rep or move onto the next exercise altogether.

In this article, we’ll dive into how to prevent wrist pain, and how to treat a wrist injury from weight lifting. What should you know? What can you do to reduce or avoid pain?

How To Avoid Wrist Pain When Lifting  

Avoiding wrist pain when lifting comes down to listening to your body and putting some serious effort into refining your form and technique. Yet, there’s more, such as using wrist wraps, straps, or gloves. Below, we’ll look at these three tips and tricks in more detail.

Tip #1: Listen to Your Body

Are your wrists feeling sore? Can you feel your grip giving out? This is a sign you may be pushing it too far. Tune into those cues your body is giving you, and then listen to them!

If your wrists hurt from lifting, it’s a sign you need to change something. It’s not worthwhile pushing through. If your wrists become seriously irritated, it may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist tendonitis, forearm pain, a wrist sprain, and other injuries. This is especially true with repetitive motion, such as performing the same exercise over and over again. In other words, the best thing to do if your wrists begin to ache is to take a rest break. Give your wrists some time to recovery and a chance for the pain to subside before you continue.

Read Also: Lower back injury from squats - Injury prevention and how to recover

Tip #2: Refine Your Form and Technique

Is your back straight? Good. Are your feet in the right position? Great. Alright, what about your hands and wrists? 

Here’s the thing: Your wrists should be right in-line with your forearms. They shouldn’t be bent in an awkward position, such as flexed or extended, which places strain on the wrists. You want to make sure you can complete each exercise with the wrists in a neutral and straight position.

If this isn’t possible, you may need to lower your weights and fix your wrist form first. It’ll save you pain down the road, preventing not just wrist pain but also other injuries.

Read Also: Alternate Exercises if you feel wrist pain from push ups

Tip #3: Try a Wrist Wrap or Strap

Wrist wraps, wrist straps, or gloves can offer your wrists the support they need. These pieces of equipment restrict your wrist movement which forces it to maintain the correct position throughout each exercise. The key is finding which one works best for you. Often, this may come down to a personal preference and what you find most comfortable or convenient. Related reading: 

The ultimate guide to the best lifting straps to elevate your training

Best CrossFit Gloves - Protect your hands and train harder

The Importance of Training Your Wrists

Another critical piece in avoiding wrist pain involves strengthening and training your wrists. Just like any other part of your body, you should ensure the wrists are strong and flexible. In turn, you can continue to perform those bigger lifts - without wrist pain holding you back.

But what exercises should you be doing?

Ideally, a mix of wrist mobility and strengthening is where it’s at. Start by trying these five exercises below. Aim to perform them at least three times a week or before each training session.

1. The Wrist Flexor Stretch

  • Hold your arm straight in front of your with your palm facing forward and your fingers pointing up toward the sky.

  • Gently use your other hand to pull your fingers back.

  • You should feel a gentle stretch through the wrist.

  • Hold here for 20-30 seconds, and repeat twice per side.

2. The Wrist Extensor Stretch

  • Hold your arm straight in front of you with your fingers pointing down.

  • Gently use your opposite hand to pull your fingers toward you (your palm should be facing you here).

  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.

  • Repeat twice per side.

3. Grip Strengthening Exercise

  • Purchase a hand grip strengthening for this exercise (or use one at your local gym).

  • Practice squeezing the grip device. 

  • Do this for 10 repetitions and 2-3 sets per side.

  • You can also choose to squeeze and hold for 5-10 seconds during each rep.

Also read: The Best Hand Grip Strengtheners For 2020

4. Wrist Flexor Strengthening

  • Rest your forearm on a desk or table, with your palm facing up and a one-pound weight in your hand. Your wrist should be resting on the desk or table, with your hand just off the edge.

  • Slowly bend the wrist toward you, lifting the one-pound weight up. Your forearm should not leave the desk.

  • Slowly return your wrist to the start.

  • Repeat for 8-10 reps and 2-3 sets per side.

5. Wrist Extensor Strengthening

  • Rest your forearm on a desk or table, with your palm facing down and a one-pound weight in your hand. Your wrist should be resting on the desk or table, with your hand just off the edge.

  • Slowly bend your wrist and bring the weight up. Your forearm should not leave the desk.

  • Gently return your wrist to the start.

  • Repeat for 8-10 repetitions for 2-3 sets per side.

How To Treat Wrist Injuries From Lifting

So, what should you do if you’ve already suffered a wrist injury from lifting? When should you see your doctor? 

If your wrist pain is continuous, persistent, or severe, you should book an appointment with your doctor or physical therapist. At your doctor's office or physical therapy office, your healthcare practitioner can perform a proper assessment and determine a proper treatment path suited to you and your needs.

For all other mild wrist pain, you can likely take care of it yourself through rest and proper care. First off, you’ll want to ice the area. Ice can help reduce pain and inflammation. Do this for 15 minutes at a time, with at least 45 minutes in between each application. Ensure you use a wet cloth between the ice device and your skin to prevent any skin damage from happening. 

It’s also important to rest your sore wrists and give your body time to heal. Avoid placing your wrists in positions that aggravate your pain. Further, avoid returning to an activity that caused your wrist pain, such as weight lifting. Instead, wait until your pain has fully disappeared before resuming these activities or sports.

When the pain has started to subside, attempt to perform wrist stretches, such as the ones outlined above. Be very gentle and go slow. If pain occurs, only go to the point before pain. 

And when you’re ready (when your pain is gone), you can head back to your regular activities or strength training regime. The next step here is to ensure you don’t experience wrist pain again. By using straps, wraps, or gloves, you can offer your wrists more support. Again, performing regular wrist strengthening exercises and stretches can also help prevent future wrist pain and build strong wrists.

Taking care of your wrists is important when it comes to reaching your weight lifting goals. Sore and painful wrists can quickly become a persistent and annoying problem. Yet, there isn’t much work involved in ensuring wrist pain doesn’t become your problem. In fact, it may seem yet a small and trivial problem - until it happens to you. Plan to perform a few minutes of wrist exercises a few times a week. Wrist pain isn’t inevitable, and it doesn’t have to happen to you!

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden worked as a Rehab Exercise Expert at a physiotherapist clinic in Ottawa, Canada for 4 years. She has an Honours Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She uses her extensive knowledge in this area to educate others through well-researched, scientific, and informative articles. Her passions include helping others and inspiring each person she meets to get the most out of their life.

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