Why Does My Wrist Hurt When I Do a Push-Up?

Young woman holding her painful wrist isolated on gray wall background. Sprain pain location indicated by red spot. Negative face expression .
Wrist pain can keep you from doing push-ups. (Image: SIphotography/iStock/Getty Images)

Pain in your wrists might make you avoid push-ups, but then you miss out on all the functional strength-building benefits of this move. Instead of suffering, understand why your wrists hurt so you can correct the problem and perform push-ups pain-free.

Hand Position

Where you place your hands during a push-up can make all the difference to your wrists. If your hands are too wide, ahead of your chest or too domed, it puts extra pressure on your wrists.

The proper position for a push-up has your hands below your shoulders and just slightly wider than your ribs. Your thumbs should be under your armpits.

Notice if you've cupped your hands or lifted the fingers. This puts extra pressure on the heel of your hand and consequently the wrists. Avoid angling your hands; have the fingers face forward.

Elbow Position

People commonly flare their elbows during push-ups because it makes the move feel slightly easier; however, this can do real damage to your shoulders and cause pain in your wrists. When you bend your elbows to lower into a push-up, have them create a 45-degree angle with your trunk. Avoid pointing your elbows directly out to the sides.

Trunk Position

Sagging or hiked hips are a push-up no-no. Either of these positions cheat your abs and back from acting as stabilizers during the move. Improper hip and trunk position also means you'll put more weight into your hands, which strains your wrists.

Focus on keeping your entire body straight and rigid as you push up and down. Hug your belly button in toward your spine to activate your core-stabilizing muscles. If you just don't have the strength yet to stay straight, use your knees to support your core until you build the strength for a full push-up.

Young Athlete Doing Push-Ups As Part Of gym Training
Correct form protects your wrists, as well as shoulders and elbows. (Image: Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images)

Other Causes

Tendonitis, a muscle or ligament tear, carpel tunnel, weak wrists or overuse could also be a cause of pain in your wrists during push-ups. Excessive tightness that impedes your range of motion may also be to blame. If you correct for form but still experience pain, consider seeing a sports medicine specialist or physiotherapist to rule out a medical cause.


A device that neutralizes the bend in your wrist, such as the Perfect Pushup, provides stability and takes pressure out of the wrist joints. You can also neutralize your wrists by placing dumbbells under your hands during the exercise.

Fitness practice, group of three cheerful smiling beautiful fit young females working out in sports club, doing push-ups exercise, using dumbbells in class, full length
Place your hands on weights to minimize the bend in your wrists. (Image: fizkes/iStock/Getty Images)

Flexibility exercises can help if you have limited range of motion. For example, from an all-fours position, turn your hands so that the fingers face your knees. With the heels of your hands in the floor, lean back slightly to stretch the underside of the wrist. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Simple wrist rotations and bending the wrist front to back also improves your range of motion.

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