4 common causes of wrist pain and how you can help resolve it so your clients get the full benefit of their workouts.
A fall on an outstretched hand will likely result in wrist pain. For those who are lucky and don’t break anything, the wrist may just be strained and require rest, icing and wrapping for a while until the symptoms subside.
But what about clients who have nagging wrist or thumb pain that they just can’t shake? There are 4 main reasons your clients skip exercises that hurt their wrists and thumbs or forge ahead and do their exercises in pain.
In a survey of group fitness instructors, ~30% of class participants reported having wrist pain, and this number rose to more than 50% in senior classes, especially ones that were heavy on the hands. Let’s look at the 4 main reasons for wrist pain.
First cause is tendinitis, or repetitive strain injury. Wrist and thumb tendinitis are quite common.
The fitness exercises that commonly lead to tendinitis involve weight bearing on the hands or heavy weightlifting, especially when done frequently.
With significant tendinitis, clients will need to rest their wrists for 3+ weeks and may need immobilization, such as a splint. If their tendinitis is milder, try to keep the wrists from extending all the way. For weight-supported poses, have clients bear weight on their elbows, or on the hands with props such foam wedges or Wrist Assured Gloves. Weight bearing on the knuckles with hands fisted is stressful to the hands and should be avoided. Compression wraps can be helpful. In the case of wrist strain, elevate the hand and use a cold pack or frozen peas on the wrist to reduce swelling. Topical pain-reducing creams like Topercin or Biofreeze can be used.
Next, if you’re working with older adults (45+), then arthritis can cause pain and stiffness at the base of the thumb joint and the wrist. Genetic factors and previous injuries to the joints play into arthritis, as do a history of vibration, joint misalignments and repetitive movements. Women who do hand-intensive work and hobbies are more prone to arthritis.
For arthritis, move and stretch to get the joints warmed up and lubricated prior to working out. Water exercise is great for gentle muscle strengthening. Avoid hard surfaces when supporting weight on the hands. Support and cushion thumbs and wrists with Wrist Assured Gloves. WAGs soften the impact of the floor on arthritic thumbs and wrists, and because the gloves are wedged, full extension is avoided, which takes some stress off the joints. Gloves and soft supports help keep the joints warm. Topical pain-relief gels and patches can be used.
Another common cause of wrist pain is one you likely come across often—weak muscles and poor form. Improper form and technique can strain the muscles and tendons. This can be due to lack of conditioning and resistance training—people are just not aware. Joint hypermobility and ligament laxity can affect form and strain the tendons, too. Often it’s just pure weakness; as muscles fatigue, form is compromised.
Carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS) will affect some of your clients, especially those on a keyboard all day. Female anatomy puts women at three times more risk than men for CTS. For people working in hand-intensive occupations, an injury to the wrist that causes swelling or conditions that cause fluid retention (RA, diabetes, thyroid problems or pregnancy) are all things that can cause CTS symptoms.
Get your free download that reviews the symptoms, causes, management and prevention techniques for each of these 4 causes of wrist pain. Grab a copy or refer clients to www.wristassuredgloves.com.
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Editor's note: Always remember that diagnosing a medical condition is beyond a fitness professional's scope of practice. Refer clients to a physician or allied medical professional when appropriate.