Pilates and Wrist Pain

Many of us has experienced it; few of us know what to do about it. So why can wrists hurt so much for some and not for others during a pilates workout? Regardless if you’re doing mat or a reformer class, let’s explore why it occurs and then continue on to what you can do about it.

There are a lot of small little bones that connect the arm to the hand. There are no muscles to support this connection at the wrist unlike many other areas in the body. There are, however, forearm muscles that come down into hand in addition to all the little muscles inside it. Imagine the space you’d create if you were going to palm a basketball and took the basketball away but keeping your hand static. A small, hollow area is created in the palm of your hand. Keeping this form in place during a movement reduces the weight of your body into your wrists. In other words, the weight doesn’t sink into your wrists but utilizes other active, stronger muscles in your hands, forearms, and shoulders. If you’re on the mat, try pushing into your fingers and creating this small space beneath the palm of your hand. You’ll notice other muscles engaging and less weigh bearing down and into your wrists. Keep in mind it will take time to condition and actively engage your hands and arm muscles during a movement. The fact is we don’t often take a lot of weight into our hands though we can and do overuse them in everyday activities. Those activities though don’t take in most of our body weight such as a push up. So every day, all day we are using our hands but not in the way we use them in pilates class. The point is to not sink into your wrists and whatever you can do to actively engage other muscles groups, then you are in the process of conditioning your muscles in the right way.

Another area to be aware of is the shoulder girdle. If you are down on your knees and hands or just your hands as in a plank position, be aware of how broad your shoulders are. Are you sinking into your hands or is your shoulder girdle strong and more level? While on all fours, try sinking in on purpose and then bringing the opposite to your awareness by letting your shoulders actively engage. What difference do you feel in your wrists?

I won’t address physical issues that a person may have such as carpal tunnel syndrome but there are things a person can do to relieve the weight bearing load into the wrists. One common prop is folding a sticky mat and placing under the wrist so that the wrist is not only supported but propped up slightly if you are on a mat. This will prevent some of the pressure from sinking into your wrists until you have improved both your awareness and conditioning. There are gloves and other products you can use as well with similar results. If you’re doing mat work or you are in a yoga class, you can also move to the edge of the mat which will give you about the same incline as the sticky mats. Just be sure your mat is not really soft. Otherwise, it may prove to be counterproductive. A softer surface will allow more sinking. If you’re in a reformer class and your hands are on the bar, try sending your fingers out lengthwise to get a co-contraction of other muscle groups. This again should lead to less discomfort and pain. One final note: you also have the option of using the box whether in yoga, mat, or a reformer class. By placing your forearms on the box and removing the hands altogether, you are decreasing weight in the hands and wrists.

The bottom line is that there are many options. Don’t settle for pain. Talk to your instructors before or after class and if needed, get outside help either through your doctor or physical therapist. Wrist pain should not prevent all the benefits you can receive from pilates. You have options so it’s up to you to discover what those are through your expert resources.

As always, feel free to email me with feedback, questions, or suggestions for topics that interest you. I can be reached at smsunrise@yahoo.com or contact Bria directly. Thank you for reading!


This blog pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion and dis­cus­sion about med­i­cine, health and related sub­jects.  The words and other con­tent pro­vided in this blog, and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended and should not be con­strued as med­ical advice. If the reader or any other per­son has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should con­sult with an appropriately-licensed physi­cian or other health care worker. Never dis­re­gard pro­fes­sional med­ical advice or delay in seek­ing it because of some­thing you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a med­ical emer­gency, call your doc­tor or 911 immediately. The views expressed on this blog and web­site have no rela­tion to those of any academic, hospital, practice or other insti­tu­tion with which the authors are  affiliated.


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