This Is Why Your Wrist Hurts

Do your wrists hurt during a plank? When planking, you’ve either done this in your exercise class or you’ve seen people doing it: grabbing at their wrists in pain and/or modifying the move onto their forearms or fists. You’ve even seen people wearing wrist splints. There is a reason behind wrist pain when doing this popular exercise. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to hurt!

The plank seems like a simple move right? Not necessarily. Even though it is physically complicated, which I will explain, you will find it in just about every wellness/fitness program — the plank is cross-disciplinary.  You’ll find it in yoga, CrossFit, Pilates and interval training. You’ll even find it in cardio tennis. Basically it’s everywhere, but if you are not practicing good form, your wrists are the first to suffer, and here’s why:

Go ahead and drop to the ground right now and assume the plank position. Go on, what’s stopping you? If you are at work, get your co-workers involved too. Now, take a look at your elbows. Are they locked out? Have you “hyper-extended them? Not sure? Take a look at your elbows. Are “the creases” of the elbows pointing forward?  In most cases yes.  That is a sign you are hyper-extending.

If they are not locked out, do so just this once while making sure your bum stays down. How do your wrists feel? Likely not good. When the elbows lock, the body is gaining stability just in that hinge joint.  By stacking the bones on top of each other, the force lines right through the elbow. It may seem like the body is making a smart decision here, but that force continues on through the eight tiny bones in the wrist — eight tiny bones that are not meant for weight bearing. So yes, I believe you that you have wrist pain!

See those tiny bones? They are not meant for weight bearing.


Now let’s fix it:

Locked elbows = too much pressure on wrists

  1. Assume the plank position and keep your hands directly underneath your shoulder with your hips down.
  2. Keeping your hands planted, place most of the weight on the pinky sides of your hands and try to pry or rip apart the mat.
  3. Keep your elbows straight but not totally locked. That is a hard concept, but keep practicing and you’ll get it!
  4. Since you are now recruiting more of the stabilizers in your shoulders, you will probably fatigue much faster here. That is OK! That means you are getting stronger.


My Favorite Wrist Stretch

After all planking or upper body weight bearing activities, try this stretch:

Reach your arms out in front of you and flip your palms so they are facing the ceiling. Make a fist and nod the knuckles only toward you, not away.  This is a good counter exercise and stretches out the wrist extensor muscles while simultaneously “resetting” those eight little wrist bones.

I hope this helps! Please reach out to me or comment below if you have any questions or suggestions for our next “This Is Why Your _____ Hurts.” And click here if you missed the first post in the series, This Is Why Your Shoulder Hurts.


  • The latest from Megan
Megan Brown, physical therapist, Pilates instructor, mother and co-founder of Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga in Alexandria, VA, likes to goof around. Yet her commitment to her students and her skill set in the field is no joke. After graduating from University of Virginia with a degree in Sports Medicine, Megan went on to receive her Masters in Physical Therapy and eventually her Doctorate in the profession. Although Pilates was never part of the plan, the method changed the way she treated patients, positively re-directed her career path and enhanced her own active lifestyle. Customized Pilates instruction is her specialty–she designs classes based on clients needs: athletes, new moms, rehabilitation or just for fun (why be serious all the time?). Pilates + Yoga is the best of both worlds, hence the creation of Mind the Mat studios providing classes for all—in every walk of life.

Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga was founded in 2008 by Megan Brown, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Polestar Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation and Sara VanderGoot, Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 200, RYT 500). In their private practices as physical therapist and massage therapist respectively Megan and Sara observed that many of their clients were coming in with similar needs: relief for neck and shoulder tension and low back pain as well as a desire for more flexibility in hips and legs, stability in joints, and core strength.

Together Megan and Sara carefully crafted a curriculum of Pilates and yoga classes to address needs for clients who are pregnant, postpartum, have injuries or limitations, who are new to Pilates and yoga, and for those who are advanced students and are looking for an extra challenge.     

2214 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


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