A doctor provides causes and solutions to wrist pain while weightlifting.

What are the possible causes of wrist pain that is brought on during a weightlifting set?

“This can often be related to De Quervain’s tenosynovitis,” begins Asim S. Aijaz, MD, a board certified pain management specialist with Advanced Pain Care in Texas.

Dr. Aijaz continues, “This is pain along the radial (thumb) aspect of the wrist.  While the exact cause is unknown, repetitive wrist movements can make it worse.

“It is often seen in new mothers who are lifting their babies repetitively.  In weightlifting, hammer curls can reproduce this movement and can potentially aggravate the symptoms.”

When your wrists hurt during lifting weights, the tissue that’s involved usually relates to the tendons, as it does with De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, “but it may also be a problem in the joint such as with arthritis, or in the bone if there is a small fracture (more likely with impact exercises such as boxing or punching a heavy bag),” says Dr. Aijaz.

So which exercises should a person with wrist pain avoid doing?

Dr. Aijaz explains, “Hammer curls. Do supinated curls to relieve some of the stress along the radial aspect of the wrists.”

Supinated means palms facing forward when your arms are straight, and as you bring the dumbbells or barbell up, your palms are facing towards you.

Dr. Aijaz adds, “Avoid impact exercises. If doing burpees, make sure you are using proper form with the pushup part of the exercise and that you’re not hitting the ground too aggressively as you are approaching the pushup position of the exercise.

“Listen to your body, if you notice a certain repetitive exercise aggravates the pain, avoid it.”

What exercises can you do?

“If your pain persists you may benefit from having somebody evaluate your form to make sure you are not putting unnecessary stress on your wrists with common exercises such as pushups, bench press, curls,” says Dr. Aijaz.

“Sometimes it’s just a matter of proper hand positioning to reduce the stress: spreading out your fingers to distribute weight through your fingertips during pushups for example.”

If you’ve developed wrist pain in the course of your weightlifting regimen, ask yourself if this pain began after you one day decided to try an E-Z curl bar for biceps curls.

Though these bars are designed to reduce wrist strain, they can actually strain the wrists in someone who’s used to doing curls with a straight bar.

So if this describes you, abandon the E-Z curl bar and go back to the straight bar.

“Generally if the pain is related to a tendon issue or arthritis, one may find it beneficial to reduce the weight and adjust the form or take a break from exercises which stress the wrists,” says Dr. Aijaz.

“During your break from these exercises, you may find relief with ice and anti-inflammatories.

“As you’re getting back into your workout, you may consider wearing a wrist support and see if this helps in preventing the pain from returning.”

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


“Occasionally patients with carpal tunnel syndrome will complain of hand and wrist pain that is exacerbated with weightlifting,” says Jonathan Oheb, MD, North Valley Orthopedic Institute, Chief of Orthopedic Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery.

Dr. Aijaz has been involved with the Texas Pain Society, Spine Injection Society and the American Society for Interventional Pain Physicians.
In addition to hand, elbow and shoulder care, Dr. Oheb provides comprehensive surgical and nonsurgical treatment for all orthopedic conditions of the hip, knee and ankle, including broken bones and injuries. jonathanohebmd.com
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



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