By Shila Tirabassi
Q: “I have been having a lot of trouble with my wrists while doing inversions in dance class, I think that they are week and need strengthening, is there anything that you can suggest?”
A: Wrist pain is a common problem among people who are often weight bearing on the arms. The pain can stem from a variety of reasons so if it is severe, it is important to understand what could be causing it in order to take proper action. If you’ve been placing a lot of weight on the arms in class or a piece you’ve been rehearsing and there is just mild discomfort, the cause is most likely from overuse.
Here are some steps you can take to prepare your wrists for bearing the weight of the body with more ease:
- The Tennis Ball Squeeze: squeeze a tennis ball as hard as possible without causing pain and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times
- Wrist Curls with Theraband: take a theraband (preferably the bands that have handles on the ends but a regular theraband will do) and step on one end while standing. Hold the other end as if you are about to do bicep curls but instead stabilize your forearm at a 90 degree angle and hold forearm with opposite hand. Perform wrist curls isolating the movement in the wrist. Perform 3 sets of 8 in each of the following movements: flexion (with palm facing up), extension (with palm facing down), and lateral deviation (with thumb facing up/palm facing the midline)
- Stretching Flexors: Hold arm out in front of you at shoulder height, straight elbow with palm facing up. Take opposite hand and pull fingers and hand back until the wrist is in full extension stretching the flexors of the wrist. Alternative stretch: place hands in a prayer position in front of your chest and slowly lower the prayer down to the level of the waist without losing contact of your palms against one another. Hold stretches for 5 long, slow, deep breaths.
- Stretching Extensors: Hold arm out in front of you just below shoulder height, straight elbow with palm facing down. Take opposite hand and pull hand down so fingertips face the floor, flexing the wrist and stretching the extensors. Alternative stretch: come down onto hands and knees. One at a time flip the palm of one hand to face the ceiling and point fingertips towards your knees as you stretch the wrist extensors against the floor. Hold stretches for 5 long, slow, deep breaths.
- Twist Stretch: Hold both arms out in front of you at shoulder height, elbows straight with palms facing out. Cross right arm over left (now palms face one another) and interlace fingers. Bend elbows as you bring your interlaced hands towards you and flip them over the other way as the elbows extend away from you. Only lengthen elbows as much as your wrists will allow without pain. Hold stretch for 5 long, slow, deep breaths. Repeat other side.
Extensors: Thoroughly massage the back of the forearm (a kneading action with opposite hand’s fingertips) from the elbow, down the fleshy part of the forearm, and down towards the back of the wrist. If there is a particularly tender spot, stay on it with static compression and hold until the intensity lessens.
- Flexors: Cross fiber the inside of your forearm (with opposite hand’s thumb) from under elbow crease down to wrist. If there is a particularly tender spot, stay on it with static compression and hold until the intensity lessens.
- Carpal Tunnel: Massage (with opposite hand’s thumb) the thumb pad and pinky pad of the palm near the wrist creases. This is where the little bones of your wrist reside which create your carpal tunnel. Many muscles attach to these bones so press in deep and search for tight spots. If there is a particularly tender spot, stay on it with static compression and hold until the intensity lessens.
Proper Biomechanics: Any time you are weight bearing on your arms it is important to distribute the weight all the way to the fingertips so as not to collapse the carpal tunnel. When palms are on the ground, spread fingers wide and press the finger pads into the ground as if gripping the floor. This will “dome” the palm and wrist slightly which is where the median nerve comes through. This action maintains the integrity of the carpal tunnel so the nerve does not become aggravated. Also if the wrist bends beyond 90 degrees, the carpal tunnel has less space for the nerve. Trying to work with a 90 or less bend in the wrist is ideal. Warm-up the wrists with wrist circles and the above strengtheners/stretches to prepare your body for bearing weight on your arms.
As always, listen to your body. The sensations your body gives you are signals. If your gut is telling you to back off, listen to it. If the wrists seem inflamed, in extreme discomfort, and/or omitting heat to the touch, there is an inflammatory process going on in which case REST IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING along with ice and natural anti-inflammatories like turmeric. If there is pain, tingling, and/or numbing down the arm there may be a nerve entrapment starting higher up in the brachial plexus. This kind of nerve entrapment is complicated to work out with self-massage, so call your Neurosomatic Therapist to clear up this issue.