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5 Tips for Managing Wrist Pain with Push-ups or Planks

Why might my wrists hurt in a plank position?

Wrist pain is a common problem in weight-bearing positions such as a plank or while doing push-ups. This pain can come from the increased load of the weight-bearing position with the wrist near its end range of extension. This position compresses the radiocarpal (wrist) joint and stretches the wrist flexor muscles and neural tissue traveling from the forearm, across the wrist, into the hand. The result can be pain on the dorsal (top) side of the wrist and/or the palm side of the wrist.

5 tips to manage weight-bearing wrist pain

1. Check that you have sufficient wrist range of motion for a plank position. Without bearing significant weight into the hand, place your hand on a table and position your arm vertically above the hand. You should then be able to move the arm past vertical a few degrees without the heel of your hand lifting off the table. If this feels tight or painful or the heel of the hand lifts off the table, wrist extension range of motion is limited and may be a contributing factor.

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2. To improve wrist extension range of motion, use a lacrosse ball or tennis ball to massage the wrist flexor muscles. Then gently work your extension range of motion in a similar position as step one, using your other hand to firmly hold the heel of the working hand in place. Move through a pain-free range. 

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A young woman with curly hair wearing a blue t-shirt is performing a plank exercise on a black mat in a room filled with peak performance fitness equipment.

3. Strengthen the muscles that support the wrist. Resting your forearm on a stable surface, hold a light weight, palm down, and lift the weight slowly up and down using your wrist. Do 3-4 sets of 10-15 slow reps. Do the same with the hand palm up. 

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4. Improve wrist strength and stability in a weight-bearing position. Perform bear crawls keeping the fingers off the ground when you initially step with the hand, then slowly lowering the fingers to the ground as you transfer your weight onto the hand (like the heel-toe pattern of walking). Keep your weight behind your hands, rather than having the arm stacked vertically, to start.

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5. Be patient as your wrist mobility, strength, and stability progresses. This process will likely take 2-3 months. In the meantime, adjust aggravating activities by using dumbbells under the hands for push-ups and bringing planks down to the elbows. 

 

Conclusion

  • Wrist pain may occur in weight-bearing positions, such as a plank, due to compression of the wrist joint and/or stretching of the wrist flexor muscles and neural tissue.
  • Improve wrist pain by addressing range of motion restrictions, wrist strength, and wrist stability in weight-bearing positions.


This article addresses just a few common contributors to weight-bearing wrist pain. There are many structures, conditions, and injuries not discussed here that result in wrist pain. We recommend setting up a one-on-one visit with us to determine what’s best for your body.

Our Mission:

Here at Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy we help active adults in the Madison Area get back to the activities they love without pain or limitations. We see people of all ages, ability levels, and individuals trying to get back to a multitude of movements including: getting back into running, women postpartum, CrossFit athletes, climbers, gymnasts, wrestlers, overhead athletes, and your recreational weekend warrior. If you’re looking to get back to the activities that give you meaning, relieve stress, and make you feel like you again, feel free to reach out below and we’ll see if we’re the right fit for you.