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Exercising with Hand and Wrist Injuries

Joe Fleming explains everything you need to know about exercising with hand and wrist injuries.

A hand or wrist injury might seem like a kiss of death for an avid weightlifter or gym-goer. After all, how are you supposed to hold weight if your hand or wrist hurts?

The good news is that you can still work out -- and see great results -- while dealing with hand and wrist injuries. You need to get a little more creative.

Read on to learn more about standard hand and wrist injuries and how you can continue working out while dealing with them.

Common Types of Hand and Wrist Injuries

There are several different hand and wrist injuries that athletes and gym-goers may experience. Some of the most common injuries include:

  • Thumb sprains -- damage to the ligament at the base of the thumb
  • Tendonitis -- this occurs when the tendons in the wrist or hand become irritated and inflamed
  • Hand or wrist fractures
  • Jammed fingers

What Causes Hand and Wrist Injuries?

Several situations can cause these standard hand and wrist injuries. The causes of injuries can be broken into two categories: traumatic or acute injuries and chronic overuse injuries.

An acute injury occurs when an athlete or gym-goer experiences a sudden trauma. For example, if a basketball player jams their finger during a game, that would be considered a traumatic injury.

On the other hand, if a weightlifter consistently lifts with improper form and gradually irritates their wrist or hand, that would be considered a chronic overuse injury.

Common traumatic injuries include:

  • Fractures
  • Joint dislocations
  • Strains and sprains
  • Ligament tears

Issues like tendonitis are often brought on by chronic overuse. If you lift weights with bad form or suffer from a chronic health condition like high blood pressure or arthritis, you may be more likely to deal with chronic pain or overuse injuries.

How to Work out with Hand and Wrist Injuries

Whether your hand or wrist injury was brought on by overuse or a sudden traumatic event, you probably wonder what you can do to continue working out without aggravating your injury and making it worse.

It might seem impossible to exercise, especially strength training if your grip is compromised due to a hand or wrist injury. In reality, though, you can do lots of things to stay active and make progress while your hand or wrist heals.

Instead of Deadlifts

When it comes to exercises like deadlifts that require you to grip a barbell or dumbbell, remember that there is more than one way to target the posterior chain.

Instead of deadlifts, do hip thrusts, bodyweight step-ups, or glute-hamstring raises.

Instead of Bench Presses or Push-ups

As for upper body exercises like bench presses or push-ups, try doing machine chest presses or cable flyes instead. You still need to use your hands for these exercises, but it is easier to keep your wrists straight and your palms open.

Assuming you are not wearing a cast, you should be able to execute these exercises correctly without putting a lot of pressure on the wrists or hands.

Instead of Rows

Try a hands-free variation to strengthen your back while your hand or wrist heals for rows. Lie down between two boxes with the backs of your upper arms resting on top of the boxes. Press your elbows and upper arms into the boxes and use your back muscles to lift and lower your torso.

Other Hands-Free Exercises

There are plenty of other exercises you can do without putting any strain on your hands or wrists. Some of the best ones include:

  • Bodyweight squats
  • Leg press
  • Machine hamstring curls
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Walking or stationary lunges
  • Walking and running
  • Forearm planks and side planks

There is no need to skip your workouts altogether just because you are dealing with hand or wrist injuries.

How to Treat and Prevent Hand and Wrist Injuries

In addition to working around your hand and wrist injuries, it is also essential to take steps to treat the pain and prevent future injuries.

Treating Hand and Wrist Injuries

When you first start experiencing pain in your hand or wrist -- whether from an acute injury or a chronic one -- it is crucial to stop doing any exercises that cause your pain or make your pain worse. This will help reduce inflammation and prevent additional damage.

Ice the affected area in twenty-minute increments in the days following your injury. After a few days, you can alternate between ice and heat.

It is also helpful to gently massage and stretches your hand or forearm muscles. It can help relieve pain and inflammation.

Depending on your injury, you may also be able to use splints or bandages to keep your hand in a neutral position while it heals. Your doctor may also recommend that you wear a cast if you are dealing with a broken thumb or wrist.

Preventing Future Injuries

When your injury has healed, and you are ready to start using your hand or wrist again, it is vital to take steps to prevent a future injury. While you cannot keep all acute injuries at bay, there is a lot you can do to protect yourself from chronic injuries.

One of the best things you can do is to wear wrist straps or wrist tape to help support your wrists while you lift weights.

You should also make sure you are keeping your wrists neutral, especially when doing exercises like rows or bicep curls.

Be sure to add exercises that strengthen the wrists and hands into your routine, too. Good ones to include are wrist curls and farmer's walks. Playing with therapy putty can also help improve your grip and hand mobility.

Final Thoughts

Your workouts do not have to stop just because you are dealing with hand or wrist injuries. Keep these treatment and workaround tips in mind (and do your best to prevent future injuries), and you will have no trouble staying active while you heal.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • FLEMING, J. (2018) Exercising with Hand and Wrist Injuries [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Joe Fleming is the President at Passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. To inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life's challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health, and ageing to social narratives, motivational pieces, and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.