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Wrist Pain From Lifting: All Your Questions Answered

Reviewed by: Oleksiy Torokhtiy (21 years of Oly Lifting experience)

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Wrist pain from lifting is more common than you might think as many upper body exercises load  your wrist joints. It’s particularly frustrating because you have to suspend most of your workouts as you nurse your wrist.

Thankfully, this annoying pain can be avoided as long as you avoid some bad practices. So what causes wrist pain from lifting? How can you avoid it? We’ll find out in this article.

First, the quick answer.

Wrist pain from lifting is caused primarily by doing more volume or load than you are used to, or by incorrect technique during workouts. If you don’t stick to the to the correct movement performance for your workout, you might twist your wrists to too much stress which causes pain.

Now for the long answer, we’ll look deeper into what might cause wrist pain and how you can treat it.

wrist pain from lifting

Why Does Your Wrist Hurt During Lifting?

Wrist pain is a very common and annoying injury for lifters. Fortunately, it can be avoided. To understand how to avoid wrist pain, we must first understand what causes it. There’s a high likelihood that it’s as simple as changing a small part of our routine.

Before we begin, this is not a medical consultation or medical advice. It’s important that you consult with your qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re suffering from wrist pains. Now let’s look at some common causes of wrist pain when working out.

If you don’t have any wrist pain, stick around to find how you can keep it that way. If you do, see whether any of these ring a bell. Let’s do it.

1. Improper Form and Technique

If you experience wrist pain when lifting, you might have been lifting without proper technique. Wrists are not built to take a lot of stress, but they have a special power. They can serve as a conduit for the stress to pass through from your hands to your arms and the rest of your body.

Proper form dictates that you must keep your wrists straight to allow the stress to pass through as it should. Bend them sideways and your wrists start taking on some of the stress because there’s no free flow anymore. Before long, your wrists will be in pain and you’ll be left wondering why.

So make sure to keep your wrists in proper form for whatever exercise you’re doing to avoid any wrist injury from lifting. This is the first and most important step.

2. Too Much Weight

Lifting heavier than you are prepared for is another reason you might be experiencing wrist pain from lifting weights. It’s normal to be so eager to progress that you just pile on the weights as fast as you can. That can be dangerous, however, because eagerness does not always mean readiness.

As you lift, your whole body to move weights. Considering this, it’s recommended to keep balance when you just start lifting which is important for newbies in strength and lifting trainings.

You don’t want to build up your chest and leave your legs behind because you might become very strong with legs that can’t carry your weight. This applies to your wrists as well.

That your biceps and triceps are strong enough to lift heavy weights doesn’t mean your wrist is ready for that. So, especially if you’re a beginner, take it easy with the weights. Start small and slowly but steadily work your way up. Haste makes waste.

3. Too Much Work

If you’re not piling on the weights, another thing you might be doing wrong out of eagerness is piling on the reps and sets. Again, the enthusiasm is good, but overworking yourself will only pull you backwards. Overuse of anything will eventually wear it out, and your wrists are no different.

weightlifting exercises

One of the most important but often neglected parts of fitness is recovery. No matter how hard you work, you are still human and your body needs rest. There are several studies that have shown time and time again how important rest is yet most people continue to undervalue or ignore it.

Recovery allows your body to reset, to self heal if there are any strains. Skipping your rest will prevent your body from refreshing itself and expose you to injuries that might be brewing up without your knowledge.

Often, wrist injuries are not immediately apparent and we just tough it out and keep going. The stress builds up without your knowledge until it’s too much to hide, then it accumulates and bursts out leaves you with sore wrists from lifting. So give your wrists time to rest. Space out your reps and sets such that your body is well taken care of.

4. Acute Injury

This is a nightmare to any lifter. Acute injury only comes into play if you’ve ignored the warning signs from your wrist till it’s no longer just pain but an injury. At this point, you probably have to see a doctor. It doesn’t matter how much you can ignore warning pains, it will eventually become unbearable.

Ignoring pain will only make matters worse, so pay attention to your body and take care to respond appropriately.

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6 Types of Wrist Pain

Not all wrist pains are the same. Different movements and behavior result in different wrist conditions that cause pain. It’s important to know the basic differences between them, so we’ll do a short summary of some common types.

wrist anatomy

1. Wrist Sprain

A sprain is what happens when there is damage to a ligament, from excessive tension. Ligaments are tissue that help stabilize joint movement, so if a ligament is stretched too far it might tear. This can cause the following symptoms, depending on how severe:

  • Pain when moved
  • Swelling
  • Burning sensations
  • Redness/Bruising

Sprains are usually caused by overuse or physical trauma, so you now see why it’s important to take it easy. The more you ignore the pain, the worse the situation inside gets.

2. Tendonitis 

Tendons are tissues that attach our muscles to our bones. I won’t bore you with the biology of it, but repeated movements can cause swelling or inflammation in your tendons. As you know, this is what weightlifting is all about. When you overwork yourself and go too hard for too long, your tendons might flare up in protest.

3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which is responsible for sensation in your fingers, is put under high pressure. This pressure then leads to tingling/numbness, weakness and potentially pain in your hand and wrist.

4. Wrist Fracture

This is a bad one. A wrist fracture happens when one of the small bones connecting your arm to your wrist cracks or breaks due to excess stress. You would need to visit a doctor immediately to avoid it turning into a terrible injury.

5. Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex Injury

There is some cartilage located on the pinky finger side of the wrist that helps support the small bones in your wrist called the triangular fibrocartilage complex. Plenty of tension and/or compression over time or a massive shock impact can either wear it away or tear it. This leads to pain along the pinky finger side of your wrist. 

6. Others 

There are other causes of wrist pain including:

  • Wrist bursitis
  • Arthritis
  • Wrist tenosynovitis

Now that you’re familiar with different types of wrist pain, let’s have a look at how to prevent and treat it.

How to Fix Wrist Pain While Lifting?

If you don’t experience any hand pain from lifting weights, it’s best to keep it that way. You don’t want any of that pain, trust me. If your wrists hurt when lifting, there’s no need to panic. Your lifting days are far from over. In this section, we’ll discuss measures to help prevent and treat wrist pain.

doing wrist exercise

1. Prevention

To keep your wrists from hurting when you lift, here are some tips.

• Maintain Proper Form and Technique

You’re probably tired of hearing this, but it can really be that simple with preventing wrist pain. Proper technique ensure that your workouts have the right effect on you, but also that you’re safe throughout.

• Listen to Your Body

Your body is not a log of wood, it gives you feedback. It’s important that you’re attentive to the signs and warnings of your wrist and adjust accordingly. Pushing your wrist too far is sure to cause you more grief down the line.

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• Wrist Exercises

There are effective wrist exercises that can help loosen up your wrist before you get into the thick of your workout. These mini workouts will reduce the risk of injury to your wrists by increasing flexibility and strength.

• Use Wrist Wraps

Wrist wraps are a tidy gym accessory that help support your wrists by locking them in place and shielding them from the direct brunt of the weights. They help set the wrist up so that your wrists don’t bend as much when lifting heavy loads.

WBCM wrist wraps

Be careful not to get too dependent on wrist wraps as they will hamper your natural wrist strength and development in the long run. Our advice would be to use wrist wraps if you’re a beginner or a veteran looking to increase your max.

Our Recommended Wrist Wraps

WARM BODY COLD MIND Weight Lifting Wrist Wraps

WBCM Weight Lifting Wrist Wraps
  • Length: 12”/18”
  • Width: 3”
  • Material: Elastic, Cotton
  • Closure type: Elastic strap with heavy duty Velcro Fastener and cross stitches
  • Thumb loop: Yes
  • Color: Black/Red

The Warm Body Cold Mind weightlifting wrist wraps are tailored for your needs. They’re made from premium cotton and feature canvas webbing with reinforced stitching.

They’re designed to provide maximum support for even the heaviest weights while providing top notch comfort, with input from world and european weightlifting champion, Oleksiy Torokhtiy.

Best Women’s Wrist Wraps

Whether you’re looking to prevent wrist pain while lifting or nurse your wrist back to fitness, these wrist wraps are the perfect companion. They’re anti-slip and super comfortable, and they keep your wrist in form and shield it from excess stress.

2. Treatment

If you’re already experiencing pain, here’s how you can nurse your wrist back to full fitness:

• Medical Treatment

If you feel any sharp pain that is worsening or just won’t go away, it’s time to suspend any lifting that stresses the specific area and call your doctor. No need to panic, but it’s safer to describe exactly how you feel to your doctor and they’ll know what to do. It could be a simple matter like an ice pack or it could be serious and you might have to get an x-ray.

• Wrist Exercises

Once finished with the doctor and if your wrist is healing and feeling better, it’s good to start some basic exercises. Start stretching and warming your wrists prior to activity up to avoid a recurrence and hasten the healing too

• Wrist Wraps

We already mentioned wrist wraps as a way to help prevent wrist pain, but it’s also great for treatment. If you’re feeling confident enough to get back into the gym, take it easy for a start. Don’t go anywhere near your max and use wrist wraps. Wraps reduce the amount of stress on your wrist ligaments and let you easily cope with heavier weights.

FAQ

How long does it take for a wrist strained during lifting to heal?

Mild strains can take about 1-6 weeks to heal, but more serious injuries can take as long as 6 months or longer to heal. If your pain is serious, the best person to give you a specific prognosis would be your doctor.

Symptoms That Your  Wrist Suffers After Vigorous Lifting Session:

It’s time to contact your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these:

  • Consistent pain even without lifting
  • Continued numbness
  • Difficulty in holding items due to weakness
  • Difficulty in doing basic hand movements
  • Changes in hand skin color/temperature/texture (emergency)
  • Swelling, bruising (potential emergency)

Conclusion

Wrist pain from lifting is quite common among lifters, but can be prevented and treated. Stick to proper form and technique, pay attention to your body, and call your physician before things get too serious.

The earlier you handle any wrist strains, the less serious they’ll get and the less time you’ll spend on the sidelines. Use wrist wraps as an extra support especially if you’re new to the movements or attempting to increase your max load.

Now we would like to hear from you. Have you experienced wrist pain when lifting before? Did any of the causes ring any bells? Do you have a question I didn’t cover? Let’s talk in the comments!

Also read:

References:

  1. Stretches for Wrists and Hands // Healthline:
    https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain/wrist-and-hand-stretches
  2. Photos made by Torokhtiy Media Team; sciencephoto, Canva.

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David Sasha Schulz avatar

Author: David Sasha Schulz
Doctor of Chiropractic, BSc Human Biology, CSCS

Chiropractor – 4 years
Strength coach (CSCS) – 10 years

Sasha is a Chiropractor and Kinesiologist practicing in Kelowna, BC, Canada. He has been practicing Chiropractic since 2019, integrating manual therapy, strength training and programming principles, and nutritional strategies to get his patients optimal results. He currently scratches the competitive itch in fitness, and the occasional endurance race, and plays golf and snowboards for fun. He has an interest in all strength and fitness-related sports.

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Oleksiy Torokhtiy

Reviewed by: Oleksiy Torokhtiy
Olympic Weightlifting Champion

Experience: 21 years
Best ResultsSnatch – 200 kg,
C&J – 240 kg

Oleksiy Torokhtiy is a professional athlete boasting 20 years of experience in Olympic weightlifting. With multiple European and World titles under his belt, he has showcased his prowess in two Olympic Games (Beijing 2008 and London 2012). Upon concluding his illustrious career, Oleksiy dedicated himself to coaching. By 2022, he had conducted over 200 weightlifting seminars worldwide. He is the visionary behind an international sportswear and accessories brand known for its motto, “Warm Body Cold Mind.” Additionally, he is an esteemed author and the creator of a series of training programs and eBooks.

View reviewer’s page

Still have questions after reading our article? Unlock your full potential by engaging with our experts and community! Don’t hesitate — leave a comment below and David Sasha Schulz will provide a personalized answer and insights to help you reach your goals.

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