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Managing Chronic Wrist Pain

Posted by Andrea Hamel

August 25, 2016 at 2:00 PM

As many boxers and mixed martial artists know, it only takes a heartbeat to cause a wrist injury. One minute, you're sparring normally. The next minute, you've blocked a kick wrong, angled your hand the wrong way as you threw a punch, or simply put too much pressure on your wrist. Now, you're dealing with wrist pain. Over time, especially with repeated injuries, many athletes find themselves dealing with chronic wrist pain. Sometimes, training straight through it is the best option. Other times, managing the pain involves treating it properly. 

Provide Appropriate Support

When you're exercising, you need to know that your wrist is supported appropriately. From a simple band that helps stabilize the joint to a more complicated brace that provides premium support or even a splint that keeps your wrist immobile while still allowing you to participate in the sport you love, wrist supports are one of the best ways to continue exercising in spite of an injury. These supports accomplish several things:

  • They issue a constant reminder of the injury so that you're less likely to use your wrist in a way you shouldn't
  • They provide stabilization, which is particularly important in high-contact sports
  • They protect your wrist and allow it to heal while still allowing you to continue with at least some of your daily activities
  • They help reduce pain by restricting motion, which will prevent you from causing yourself more damage

Use Wraps and Tapes

If braces aren't suitable for your needs, making sure that you have adequate wrist support--for example, wrapping under your gloves if you're boxing--can provide the additional layer of support you need to avoid future wrist injury. Taping your wrist also allows you to provide exactly the support you need, precisely where you need it. This method also allows you to use more support on days when your wrist is giving you more trouble or feels week, then back down the amount of support you're using on your better days so that you can build strength.

Use Hot or Cold Compresses 

Deciding whether to use hot or cold compresses can be a challenge, especially if you aren't sure what will benefit your wrist the most. As a general rule, cold is best for reducing swelling, which is a common cause of chronic wrist pain. Cold therapy is particularly useful following exercise, when swelling and inflammation can be most intense. In the case of chronic pain, however, heat may be more comforting and make the injury less painful, especially at the end of the day or several hours after an intense exercise session that has ended with overworked muscles around your wrist. Heat may also be useful prior to an exercise session for loosening up tight muscles and making the exercise session more comfortable.

You'll need to find the combination of heat and cold that works most effectively for providing you with relief. Always make sure to avoid direct contact between the heat or cold source and your skin, which can cause burns or frostbite. You should only apply ice for 10-15 minutes at a time with breaks in between.

chronic wrist pain

Take Pain Relievers as Appropriate

As an athlete, you may be reluctant to add foreign substances to your body. You have a careful training regime that includes the food you eat and the medications you take. Taking over the counter pain relievers, however, can relieve pain and swelling in your wrist and make it easier to go about your daily tasks. Some creams can also help soothe the pain in your wrist, reduce swelling, and help compensate for a hard day training.

Adapt Your Training

Depending on your sport, you may be able to temporarily adapt your training to compensate for your sore wrist. Avoiding activities that cause pain is the first priority. This may include:

  • Temporarily reducing your weight when you're lifting. Consider aiming for higher reps with a lower weight instead of going for your max.
  • Avoiding push-ups for the time being. Alternatively, you may discover that doing push-ups on your knuckles or using a push-up bar is easier on your wrist.
  • Train at a lighter intensity if you're using the heavy bag. Make sure that you're wrapping and supporting both wrists appropriately, and check your technique to be sure that it's correct. You can also try shadow boxing for a period of time.
  • Perform planks on your elbows, rather than on your hands.
  • Use kettlebells, which don't require a bent wrist position, instead of other types of weights.
  • Consider careful yoga practice, which can improve flexibility and strength in your wrists and help gradually decrease pain over time. Choose your yoga positions carefully, however, and don't jump into positions that require you to put your weight on your flat hands. 
  • Don't push your wrist into positions that you find uncomfortable. Remember that regaining flexibility is a gradual process, not one that you can expect to work overnight.

Alter Daily Activities

It's not just your training that could be contributing to your wrist pain. Your daily activities can also worsen chronic pain or even create the issue in the first place. If you're struggling with chronic wrist pain even after adapting your training, there are several things you can do in your daily life to help your wrist heal--or at least, in the absence of healing, to avoid as much pain as possible.

  • Wear a wrist brace when necessary throughout the day. Note which activities cause increased pain or stress on your wrist and use the brace for stability and comfort. Splinting can help keep your wrist in a neutral position, which avoids strain. This technique has proven highly beneficial in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Alter the position of your keyboard so that your hands don't remain in a bent-wrist position all day. Consider using a standing desk or another alternative so that you can shift position as needed.
  • Use ergonomic equipment when possible to reduce stress on your wrists. Gel pads, ergonomic keyboards and mouse pads, and other tools can make your daily activities easier.
  • Add padding around any tools that you use regularly that produce excessive vibration. Cushioning the vibration may help reduce stress on your wrists.
  • Take regular breaks to reduce stress on your wrists. Perform stretching exercises and other techniques that increase flexibility. You're never too busy to take the breaks that will improve your health, but if you struggle to remember this simple habit, set a reminder program to make it easier.

When it comes to treating chronic wrist pain, the goal is to relieve as much pain as possible and to make it as easy as possible for you to continue both with your training and with your daily life. Once an initial injury has healed and you know that you're dealing with a chronic problem, not an acute injury, managing symptoms is the best way to continue with your active, busy life. If you're looking for the equipment that will allow you to maintain your regular training schedule and keep up with your daily life, contact us! We have all the materials you need to help adapt to your chronic wrist pain, and we'll help you find the equipment that you need in order to make the most out of both your training and your life.

Topics: wrist pain

    

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