Ever had to cut down your plank time or skip a set of push-ups because of wrist pain? Certain exercises put a lot of pressure on your wrists and cause discomfort. But the good news is, with a smart stretching strategy, you can help reduce achy wrists.
This forearm and wrist stretch — courtesy of Nikki Chrysostomou, PMA-CPT, a licensed movement therapist and founder of Movement Integration — will help prevent pain and strain when performing planks and push-ups.
How to Do the Forearm and Wrist Stretch
- Start standing and place your hands on a table, desk or sturdy surface with your fingers pointing away from you.
- Rotate your arms outward, so the fingers move out to the side of the room and then back toward your body. As the arms turn, your hands will come off the surface.
- With the fingers now pointing toward your body, lean slightly forward (putting weight on your hands) to feel the stretch in your forearms.
- Then, lift the hands and in a smooth motion, flip them so your palms are facing you.
- Next, starting from your fingertips, slowly roll your hands forward until the back of your hands lie flat on the surface (palms facing up). If your wrists are tight, you might not be able to get the hands all the way down.
- Lean forward, using your body weight to further stretch the wrists, and keep your elbows straight.
- Repeat the whole sequence 3 to 4 times.
Common Causes of Exercise-Induced Wrist Pain
So why do you get that annoying ache in your wrists during planks and push-ups anyway? A few usual suspects are often to blame, Chrysostomou says. But carpal tunnel syndrome — which happens when one of your wrist nerves becomes compressed — is a common culprit.
"When you bear weight on your hands, like in the plank or push-up position, this increases the compression onto the carpal bones, causing pain," Chrysostomou says.
Overuse is another likely reason for wrist pain. This is generally caused by repetitive movements of the arms, elbows or wrists (think: typing on your computer all day), Chrysostomou says. Over time, these repetitive motions can impact the muscles, nerves, ligaments and tendons in the arm.
As a result, it becomes especially difficult for your wrists — with all the tightness and tension — to withstand the pressure of your body weight during load-bearing exercises like planks and push-ups, she says.
Poor alignment of the shoulder girdle can also produce pain when performing a plank or push-up. In order for the shoulder girdle to support the wrists, the clavicle (collar bone), humerus (arm bone) and scapula (shoulder blade) need to be in an ideal alignment with each other, Chrysostomou says.
"If this alignment is not organized, the weight from the upper body is not evenly distributed down onto the wrists, which then results in pain," she says.
Lastly, lack of wrist strength can lead to discomfort, Chrysostomou says. Think about it: If your wrists are weak, they won't supply sufficient support to hold your bodyweight in the plank and push-up position.
3 Reasons to Do the Forearm and Wrist Stretch Every Day
1. Increased Wrist Mobility
Performing this stretch daily (ideally in the middle or at the end of the day) will increase mobility in the wrists. It creates space between the carpal bones that make up the wrist joint and helps decompress the carpal tunnel (the passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand), Chrysostomou says.
2. Releases Tension
This stretch, felt in the forearms and around the elbow joint (when gently rocking forward and back), releases tension by lengthening and loosening the muscles, fascia, ligaments and the tendons, Chrysostomou says.
3. Strengthens Your Wrists
The weight-bearing part of the movement (when leaning forward) will help to strengthen and stretch the wrists, increasing flexibility in wrist extension, she says.