Some of the questions I get asked most frequently as a Yoga Teacher & Handstand Coach are about wrist pain.
While it’s normal to feel a little discomfort when first training handstands, pain is your body’s way of warning you that something isn’t right, so powering through might not be the best idea. Instead, let’s look at WHY you might experience wrist pain in your handstand (or yoga) practice.
Before we dive into it: In case you have a wrist injury already, or if you are experiencing extreme pain or numbness in the wrists which might indicate an injury, you should seek medical advice from a doctor or physio.
Here are 5 possible reasons for wrist pain & what you can do about it:
1. Your wrist mobility sucks
Let’s take a moment to define the word Mobility:
Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to lengthen.
Whereas Mobility is the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion without pain.
Flexibility + Strength = Mobility
In a handstand, your wrists will be loaded at about a 90 degree angle. If you attempt to hold your entire body weight with your wrists in a position that they cannot naturally reach, you are basically forcing the joint into a position it isn’t ready for.
Most students don’t like to hear this but:
If you cannot flex and extend your wrist through a decent range of motion without excess force then you shouldn’t be weight bearing on it.
There is a simple way to find out where you currently stand with your wrist mobility:
Get in front of a mirror and see how far you can flex your wrists without outside force.
If you can’t reach 90 degrees, then spend some time working on your wrist mobility. When doing so we want to include:
In the videos below I show you some drills for each of the categories so you can pick & choose, and create your own wrist mobility sequence. Make sure you include exercises from each of the videos.
Done consistently over time, you will improve and reduce the risk of injury when you are ready to weight-bear on your hands.
2. You’re overdoing it
I get it! Once you fall in love with the practice of handstands and you’re dedicated to finding hang time upside down, it can be very addictive. I’ve been there!
And while it’s for sure that if you want to get better at handstands, you have to spend more time on your hands, too much is too much. It’s important to allow your practice to grow gradually. If your hands are not used to weight bearing, the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the wrists need to get used to that extra load over time.
Listen to your body and take breaks accordingly. Be smart, be patient!
3. Your warm-up doesn’t include specific wrist exercises
We all know that warming up before exercise helps us avoid injury, right?
But so many people don’t pay enough attention to warming up their wrists properly before jumping into their handstand training.
Commit to a short wrist warm-up before you start putting weight on your hands. Use the exercises from the videos above and make sure you mobilize, strengthen and stretch your wrists and fingers to warm them up properly.
4. Your handstand is out of alignment
In a well-aligned handstand the arms should be completely vertical to the floor. When the shoulders lean forward (like in a planche), it places additional stress on the wrists. Sometimes this is really obvious, other times it can be more subtle.
Is this you? A great way to check your alignment is to take a video. In case you catch yourself shifting your shoulders forward, you might want to consider if shoulder mobility plays into it and add some shoulder mobility exercises into your routine.
5. Your hands are not doing its job
Another thing you want to keep in mind is that the more active the muscles around the wrists in your hands and fingers, the less you dump into the joint.
In handstands as in other handbalances, or even in a simple plank, it’s best to spread your fingers wide, so that you have a solid base. We want the weight to be distributed evenly throughout the whole hand, with all 10 fingers gripping the ground and actively working to balance our weight.
As with everything else: Consistency is key!
We want to expand our practice gently and regularly rather than go full-force every now and then.
To make consistency super easy for you, I added a well-rounded warm-up sequence for your wrists below – the best thing is you can do it everywhere, either standing or sitting in less than 3 minutes! You don’t even have to reach your arms up or out in front like I do in the video in case you don’t want to draw too much attention in a public place. No excuses!
I love to slide in some wrist care whenever I have to wait for someone or something… most commonly when I’m waiting in line at the supermarket.
Drop me a comment and let me know how you are going to include this into your day!