Push-ups are a movement that can be done relatively anywhere. It can be performed with body-weight, resistance, or regressed for beginners. One common complaint with push-ups is wrist pain.
With a push-up, the wrist is put into a extended/hyper-extended position.
This can be a difficult position to tolerate for some people. Whether it be from a previous injury or not utilizing that mobility throughout their daily lives, loaded end-range wrist extension can be uncomfortable and even painful.
Here are 3 tips help improve wrist pain with push-ups!
1. Improve Your Wrist Mobility
If the wrist doesn’t have adequate extension, then when loaded, it can create issues at the wrist and higher up the kinetic chain.
If getting into or attempting to get into end-range wrist extension is bothersome, try performing self-myofascial release (SMR) to the muscles of your forearm.
After performing SMR, check and see if your wrist mobility for the push-up feels better. If not, try some joint mobility drills. Mobility drills such as:
Mobilization with Movement Wrist Extension
-Place one hand on top of the other as shown. Use the web space of your hand and bring it right up against the back of your wrist.
-Maintain the pressure of your hand on your wrist.
-Move your body over your hand moving your wrist into extension.
-Pressure should be felt in the wrist. If there is increased pain, stop.
Sometimes, people will experience improvement with the opposite to compression as shown before. A wrist distraction mobilization can help.
Wrist Distraction with Mobilization
-Stabilize one hand with the other.
-Gently use body to pull arm away from the floor and move into wrist extension.
-A slight stretching sensation should be felt in wrist.
-If it becomes painful, stop.
Wrist extension mobility is often limited in people who weight train due to the constant gripping of dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, etc. A good mobility drill to do is the Quadruped Wrist Extension Rockback.
-Stretch should be felt in the forearms.
-If a pinch or pain is felt in the wrist and doesn't subside with increased reps, stop.
2. Change Your Hand Position
If you still want to train the push-up and your wrist is still bothering you, try changing the position of your hands. Either doing knuckle push-ups or using dumbbells can place the wrist in a more neutral position to decrease the demands for end-range wrist extension.
3. It’s Not Your Wrist
If you have pain in a joint, the root cause may not be stemming from that specific joint itself. In the case of the wrist, there could be mobility or stability limitations higher up the kinetic chain at the elbow, shoulder, neck, or thoracic spine.
For the brevity of this post, motor control or stability issues at the shoulder specifically, can drive issues at the wrist.
Try performing your push-ups with a resistance band around your wrists. By adding a band around the wrists, it can increase rotator cuff and scapulo-thoracic stability and in turn improve wrist stability.
-The resistance band is attempting to pull your arms together. Actively think of "pulling out against the band."
Also, make sure you have adequate shoulder mobility and thoracic spine mobility prior to performing push-ups. Quick tests for adequate shoulder/thoracic spine mobility and stability are:
-3rd digit to opposite inferior angle of scapula.
-3rd digit to opposite superior angle of scapula.
Even though you aren’t going into end range shoulder or thoracic spine mobility, limitations here can send a signal to your nervous system and can affect elsewhere throughout the kinetic chain.
Try performing self-myofascial release, self-joint mobilizations if needed, changing your hand/wrist position, or using a band around your wrists.
With all that being said, if you are having wrist pain that won’t go away with any of these tips, find a licensed healthcare practitioner to be evaluated.
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