Perhaps the most common complaint I hear from new Jogis is “my wrists hurt!” Segment 1 is often the most challenging for this because so much time is spent weight bearing on the hands. By the second Joga Flow, I look around and see half the room shaking out their wrists. Good news! There’s a solution to this problem!
Here are a few tips to help take the pressure off those poor wrists so you can Joga pain free
STRETCH OUT YOUR WRIST FLEXORS
In our society, the muscles in the front of the wrist and forearm (wrist flexors) are often tight and weak. When we extend our wrists and then load them (as in plank), these already tight muscles are being stretched and aren’t happy about it. To make matters worse, nerves and blood vessels pass through the front of the wrist to innervate the hand. When the wrist is extended and weighted, this sensitive area is exposed and when muscle tension is added to the mix, inflammation and pain can develop.
The solution? Stretch your wrist flexors!
Next time you are in table top position, try turning your hands around so your fingers face your knees. Then, very slowly, press your wrists towards the mat. To increase the stretch shift your weight forward and back allowing for a gradual stretch of those muscles in the front of your wrist and forearm.
ACTIVATE YOUR CORE
So many people are too passive in positions such as plank and downward dog, lacking proper core activation and forcing a great deal of load onto the wrists. Ask yourself, where are my hips when in plank? Probably they should be higher than you think! Next time you’re in Joga class, put your mat next to a mirror and look at your profile. There should be a straight line from the back of the head to the base of the heels. Make sure those hips don’t dip down because your wrists will pay for it later!
FOCUS ON HAND PLACEMENT
Spread those fingers wide and keep the shoulders directly over top of the wrists (not in front). Then try this: hold downward dog for 30 seconds then sit up and look at your hands. The load bearing parts of your hands will be red. Many people put too much weight on the outside (pinky finger side) of the hand which directs the load along the ulna. Ideally, force should be transmitted up the radius (along the thumb side of the wrist).
How to correct this? Press the webspace between your index finger and thumb into the mat then externally rotate your shoulders (drawing the front of your elbow forward). This will help to safely distribute pressure and reduce risk of impingement.
CONTROL THAT SHOULDER BLADE!
If you focus on only one of these four tips, make it be this one! As a Physiotherapist, I see many patients with poor scapular mechanics due to weak stabilizers. That’s a fancy way of saying that most of us need to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blade. In this world of texting, typing, sitting, back pack wearing, driving (you get the point), we tend to be tight in the front of the shoulder and weak in the back. Transition this to weight bearing, for example in plank, and too much load is placed on the poor wrists.
Luckily Joga has so many great poses for strengthening the scapular stabilizers! Start with the Saddle Pose sequence from Segment 2. The isometric strengthening in this sequence is a great place to start as its non weight bearing but still super challenging! Next, try progressing to forearm plank from Segment 3. Start with static plank, drawing the shoulder blades in and down, then progress to the dynamic sequence. Finally, give plank a try! Begin on your knees (even if you KNOW you can do the full expression of plank) and focus on activating those shoulder blades. Notice the change in your wrists!
Vanessa Milot MScPT
Physiotherapist, Joga Coach
Cornerstone Therapy and Wellness, St. Catharines ON