How to Prepare Your Wrists to Avoid Strain, Pain, and Injury During Your Practice
Yoga can be a great remedy for body pain and can help with arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines, lower back pain, and a variety of other chronic pain conditions. In fact, a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that 313 people with chronic lower back pain were able to attend a weekly yoga class that increased mobility more than standard medical care for their condition. As much as yoga can alleviate pain, it has also been associated with increased wrist pain.
This is especially true for those who are new to yoga or doing more challenging poses that require more weight-bearing than the body might be accustomed to. The health of the wrists depends on the strength and tone of the muscles in the tops and bottoms of the forearms, as well as the way in which you hold weight on the hands and wrists. Damaging muscular tension typically stems from repetitive use or by putting excessive weight on the wrists during the practice.
When you first experience wrist pain from yoga, it can appear in a variety of ways. Typically, most people get dull and aching pain in the wrist, and it is usually due to bone, ligament, or cartilage damage. Some yogis will find themselves with shooting pain, which could point to acute tendinitis or a muscle sprain. If you are experiencing painful clicking in the joint, it could mean that you have torn your triangular fibrocartilage complex, which is the structure in the wrist that supports the carpal bones.
There are a few positions in yoga that can leave the body prone to chronic wrist pain, especially in vigorous styles of yoga like Vinyasa or Ashtanga practices. The high frequency of yoga push-ups and planks, as well as vinyasas can lead to overload, strain, and injury. Other positions that commonly lead to strains on the soft tissue surrounding the wrist are hand balancing postures. While your feet might be used to this level of stress, your wrists are typically not. Therefore, if you are relying heavily on your wrists throughout your practice, as many positions do, it is essential to prepare your wrists. To prepare your wrists for your yoga practice, we recommend the following steps:
- Warm up gently before placing full weight on the wrists.
This advice generally applies to all parts of the body, especially the parts that are about to undergo stress or that are about to be exercised. Warming up the wrists improves lubrication of the joints, relaxes the adjoining muscles, and improves blood flow in the area. In order to warm up your wrists, you will want to create space in the area. You can do this by holding the hand and gently pulling the elbows away from one another, which will create space in the joint.
Another great option is to stretch your wrists by coming onto all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Next, point your fingers towards your knees with your left palm facing up and right palm facing down. Lastly, to warm up your wrists, rotation is a helpful and healing method. To rotate your wrists, you can bring your arms out in front of you and press the backs of the hands together. While the wrists are still touching, rotate the fingers down and towards you, then up and away.
- Strengthen and lengthen the muscles surrounding the wrists.
The bones of the wrist are set up in such a way that the strongest bones transfer weight from the mounds of the thumb and the index and middle fingers directly to the radius, which is the stronger of the bones in the forearm. It is important for the muscles that surround the wrist to be strong and balanced. This will reduce the risk of sprain, strains, and fractures.
- Be sure to evenly distribute your weight.
When you are warming up and getting ready to begin your poses, avoid placing excessive pressure on the heels or on the wrists. If you are already experiencing wrist pain, you might consider forming a fist instead of placing your palms flat on the ground.
- Work on strengthening your core
If your core is weak, you will be more likely to shift your weight forward and lean into your wrists. By attempting to take some of the pressure off your core, you can add excessive pressure onto your wrists. You do not have to stray away from your yoga routine in order to strengthen your core. The following yoga poses can be used to enhance your core:
Side plank pose
Side plank with a twist
Dolphin plank pose
Chair pose with a twist
Victorious warrior pose
Revolving side angle pose
- Start slowly and build up your strength
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you can’t expect your body or your wrists to be prepared for all the challenges that yoga brings in a single day either. Some of the most common ways we see patients fall into injury are overuse and over-enthusiasm from the beginning of their practice. Be patient with your body and understand that it will take some time to build up the strength you need to perform in the way you want. This is true with any sport or physical activity, and yoga is no different.
If you are dealing with wrist pain or body pain of any kind, the team at ProFysio Physical Therapy can help. Give us a call at (732) 812-5200 or contact us online to learn more about our strength and conditioning services.