T Nation

Wrist Injury from Losing Grip


#1

Backcround:

I have delicate, girly wrists and hands. This has caused me to have some issues lifting, especially when I've gotten carried away because the rest of me is sure it can lift X amount, but my grip strength is not up to snuff. I probably should have wrist straps, but I thought I was doing ok, at least until the weight started to climb.

About a year ago I was deadlifting and nearly dropped the bar, but kept my grip, and got a little bit of a wrist injury. It was hard to pick up anything heavy or support myself in the push-up position. I took it easy and got over it fairly quickly (less than one month).

Current injury:

Fast-forward to a few months ago. Lifting had taken a backseat for awhile due to school and planning a wedding, but I was getting antsy so I squeezed in a session. I was deadlifting and hadn't lightened the load from the last time I had lifted, and was pleased to see my body was capable. However, my already tenuous grip strength was not. I started to lose my grip on the bar, and instead of just dropping it, I tried to keep hold (dumb dumb dumb). My hands weren't having any of it and the bar slipped, jerking on my fingers.

I have not seemed to be able to recover from this one. I admit, I aggravated it when my husband and I were moving out of and into a new apartment, but it's been another month and a half since then. In fact, it seems to be getting worse, despite my best efforts to not use the wrist for lifting anything heavy. We haven't moved my gym equipment in yet, so I haven't had a chance to do more than go for the occasional jog. I bought a wrist brace which I thought was helping, but apparently not.

It feels inflamed (doesn't really look it, though), tender to the touch, and I can't extend it without a lot of pain. It is mostly concentrated directly in the inner wrist, from the midline out toward the side my pinky finger is on. Anything that pulls on the fingers is painful.

So, has anyone had this injury before? Who do I see? A physiatrist? Sports medicine? GP D.O. who does OMM? Any basic rehab exercises?


#2

See an ortho who specializes in hand/wrist. It is an incredibly complex and delicate area we're dealing with here so treat it with respect.

When you get back in the game, I strongly recommend you apply what I call the Weak Link theory. I'm sure you've heard the adage "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link." In your case, I think it's best that you perform direct grip work (and I certainly don't mean wrist curls). Also, when you do heavy pulling, I advise you to utilize straps a bit more than a lifter who is not prone to wrist/hand injuries. The exact protocol of when, how much, and how often you use the straps is something you and your coach (if you have one) will need to dial in.

I also strongly advise you into researching the ramifications of strengthening the flexor digitorum profundis. This is the only muscle that flexes at the distal phalanges (the finger tips). It also helps to flex the hand. In my experience, with myself and my clients, this muscle does not get enough stimulus because a regular barbell only taxes the flexor digitorum superficialis.

So, if you strengthen the profundis, it will be able to assist the superficialis AND if you "lose" the bar and it rolls down to your fingertips, you'll be better prepared structurally (although, as you found out, it's best to simply dump the bar). This thick grip training concept is not new; products such as fat gripz have been around for a while now. Here is a link to a cost effective alternative:

powerstrengthfitness.com/howtobuildawesomeforearms.html

For heavy pressing, you want something more dense such as the fat gripz. However, for pulling, I've found my solution (in the link above) to be much more effective because the foam allows for custom molding of each finger.

Regardless of the type of device you employ (you can keep several in your tool box), I find it works best when doing pull ups/chin ups, db/barbell curls, ramping up on deads or RDLs with a light weight (or simply use them on your repetition/volume days if you have such days in your routine). I'll say it again: wrist curls and extensions are neither the only nor are they best method.

The above observations regarding the two flexor muscles is not some cool class room theory. It's evidence-based with a foundation in science. If you see the pic below (that's me, btw), I know a thing or two about the importance of grip strength.


#3


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#4

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#5

Wow, thank you for all of that! I have heard of fat gripz, but never got around to investing...that's a great alternative. I made an appointment with an ortho at Cleveland Clinc, so he should know what he's doing. It's driving me nuts not being able to pick anything heavy up. At any rate, I very much appreciate the advice and suggestions. I know I should have had a pair of wrist straps, but I was just getting to the point where my grip strength was lagging behind everything else. A hard lesson. Once I recover, I will definitely look into incorporating some of what you mentioned. And yes, you certainly do appear to have excellent grip strength! :slight_smile: