By: Stephanie Ruopp
Do you experience wrist pain?
It’s no wonder. The human hand consists of 29 bones, 29 joints, 123 ligaments, 34 muscles and 48 nerves. There’s a lot going on there!
If you have a very active lifestyle, it’s fairly easy to understand how your wrists could be taking the brunt of these activities.
Experiencing pain or tenderness in the wrists during certain Pilates positions such as plank or bird dog is not uncommon. But that doesn’t mean you should overlook it.
It’s a far better idea to consider what is proper alignment for your wrists.
Proper Alignment for Your Wrists Can Ease Pain
Whether you work on a keyboard or are engaged in other activities that cause repetitive motion in the wrist, you may have inflammation near the wrist joint.
This makes your wrists weaker and more susceptible to injury. Even if you only feel the pain when you’re exercising. And if you don’t address it, this could be a precursor to tendinitis – which will is far more painful and debilitating.
So the key is strengthening those wrists.
And if you’ve worked with a physical therapist, Pilates instructor or yoga instructor, then you probably already know the magic of alignment. It is the straightest and most effective path to strength.
It all starts with a neutral wrist.
So What Is a Neutral Wrist?
A neutral wrist is the natural way your wrist extends from your arm in a flat position. If you hold your arm out straight, or lay it on a table in front of you, your wrists will naturally fall into a certain position. Much like the feet.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for the wrists to favor the same inward or outward turn that your feet naturally prefer – though it won’t be as extreme.
Anyhow, once you become more aware of what neutral wrist looks like for you, you can begin to incorporate it not just into your exercise regimen, but into your daily life too.
For instance, one of the main ways our wrists get weakened is from driving. Do you hold the steering wheel with your knuckles back? You’re not alone. It’s a pretty common habit.
But putting the wrists in extension that much weakens them. By simply rolling your knuckles up and over the steering wheel, you’ll put your wrist in a more neutral position and prevent that weakness.
Seems simple enough, right?
Combining Form with Alignment
Neutral wrist is not a cure-all, of course. It’s part of the bigger picture.
For example, if you find that plank hurts your wrists, simply putting your wrists in a neutral position will help some. But it isn’t going to eliminate the pain if you’re not engaging your core. That’s an essential part of the position.
Also, with a position like plank or bird dog, it’s important to pay attention to weight distribution in the hand. Putting your wrist in neutral won’t relieve the pain if you’re not equally distributing the weight through your hand.
And many people tend to plunge all the weight into the wrist joints in these positions – without even realizing that’s what they’re doing.
That’s why it’s really helpful to work with an experienced Pilates instructor who can spot these imbalances and help you find the optimal position.
And if you’re dealing with an injured wrist that’s in the process of healing, strengthening exercises are going to be crucial. A comprehensive physical therapy program will facilitate this by implementing wrist strengthening exercises.
Some of these include working with lighter weight dumbbells to flex, extend, supinate and pronate those wrists. Your physical therapist can advise you on the best form for these.
There is also a stretch you can do on your own:
- Hold your hands out in from of you, palms down. Stretch your fingers as wide apart as you can.
- Flip your hands over and keep your fingers stretched. Flex your wrists down toward the ground.
- Use your left hand to gently pull the fingers further down, deepening extension on the right wrist. Do the same on the other side.
- Relax your fingers and turn your palms back to facing down. Then stretch your fingers wide again.
- This time flex your wrists toward your body.
- Use your left hand to deepen the stretch on your right wrist by gently pulling it further toward your body. Do the same on the other side.
- Finally, rotate your thumbs several times both forward and backward.
You can take advantage of this stretch any time, anywhere. It’s especially important right after your workout, but it’s also nice if you’re planning a long drive, or before going to sleep.
Be Kind to Your Wrists
Don’t soldier through wrist pain. Doing so could lead to injuries down the road. Instead, give them the attention they deserve.
If you work at a keyboard all day, give yourself plenty of breaks. If possible, get an ergonomic keyboard that allows for neutral wrist. And incorporate the stretches we mentioned above.
Self massage helps too – getting into every area of your hands and wrists including your palms, sides of your wrist and the spaces between your fingers.
And if you want expert advice on strengthening exercises and proper alignment for your wrists, contact us today.
We’ll put you in touch with one of our experienced Pilates instructors or physical therapists to help ease your wrist pain so you can get back into the game of life.