Keep Your Wrists Feeling Good
Written by: Coach Slater
I often see athletes rubbing their wrists or bending their hands back, to relieve some nagging pain in their wrists. I often ask, “Have you tried rolling out your forearm?” but the response is typically the same. “My forearm? But it’s my wrist that hurts.” Yes, your forearms, that group of muscles that enable you to hang on to a bar, hold a 12oz beer, type on a keyboard, move a mouse, or flip someone off in traffic. Those same muscles.
Tight muscles often shift their burden to points where they attach to your bones, their “origins” or “insertion points”. When this shift happens, you’ll experience inflammation or injury at the tendon or joint. So, issues in the forearm often result in issues at the wrist or elbow. To avoid this problem, it’s important to ensure the forearm muscles remain healthy.
You need your forearms to remain healthy so they remain strong. Their strength directly relates to your overall strength, known as “radiant tension.” Put simply, radiant tension is the act of utilizing your grip strength to create tension throughout your arm and into your shoulder. Squeeze your fist as hard as you can for 30 seconds then use your opposite hand to feel the tense arm up into the shoulder. You’ll notice your entire arm tenses up. During lifts, this tension helps utilize torque and strength while stabilizing the elbow and shoulder joints to prevent injury.
So, with that background, here are two ways you can keep your forearms, and therefore your wrists, pain-free:
First, I would suggest regularly rolling your forearms with a barbell or on a Lacrosse ball. For the barbell, lay on ground, placing your palm down on the ground, then gently placing the skinny part of the barbell across the top of your forearm. With your opposite hand, work the barbell up and down your forearm, but not on the joints, while flexing and extending the hand. For the Lacrosse ball, place your forearm on top of the ball and roll from wrist to elbow. For both, apply enough pressure to where it’s slightly uncomfortable but not unbearably painful. With any super-painful areas you find, take time to pause on those areas, squeeze your fist, then relax, and continue this pattern of contract/relax a few times until the spot relaxes. Coupling this contract/relax method with deep breathing can help the underlying tissues relax. There used to be a lot of discussion about rolling helping break up fascial adhesions, but lately, research points to its neuromuscular benefits. Basically, that’s your brain telling your fascia and muscles to relax (reduce tone) so they can properly fire.
2. Voodoo Floss & Static Stretching
Post-WOD, you can use a combination of Voodoo Floss bands and static stretches to normalize the tissues. You wouldn’t necessarily want to perform these stretches Pre-WOD as elongating the muscles can put them in a weakened state. Also, if you’re experiencing pain and haven’t rolled out the knots yet, stretching will only tighten up the existing knots. Think of pulling on a shoelace with a loose knot in it, it only gets tighter. So I suggest stretching after you’ve told your nervous system to relax via rolling.
That being said, by applying the bands over the insertion points where your forearm muscles attach to your wrist and then stretching, you’re helping break up any tacked down tissue to create better mobility. Apply it reasonably tight then work your wrist thru various ranges of motion. You are restricting blood flow during this time, so when your hand turns ashy, take off the band and gauge any improvements. You can repeat the process as needed.