#PTonICE Daily Show – Tuesday, June 18th, 2024 – Treating wrist pain at the shoulder

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Extremity Division lead faculty Cody Gingerich discusses addressing shoulder mobility in wrist pain patients. 

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Good morning everybody. My name is Cody Gingrich. I’m one of the lead faculty with the extremity division and I am coming with you today on a clinical Tuesday and we’re going to be talking about treating wrist pain at the shoulder. All right we’re going to be tackling shoulder but treating the wrist. Okay. So wrist pain going after the shoulder to deal with wrist pain. This is a big deal when we’re talking specifically about, um, a fitness athletes. Okay. So The reason being, the fitness athletes, people who are lifting in the front rack position, so think our Olympic weightlifters, our crossfitters, people who are just really working a lot of front rack position or overhead movements in general, are going to really benefit from these type of things, okay? So, couple things that I wanna start with and why it is important to look at the shoulder when someone is coming in with wrist pain. In the extremity division we talk about wrist pain a lot of times and most most of the time a lot of different presentations of wrist pain are going to be due to or need more wrist extension. It is going to be a wrist extension intolerance and that is largely going to be the case when we’re talking about what we are today as well. With these barbell athletes or overhead athletes that need a good amount of wrist extension to get into good front rack position, or if we were thinking about handstand walking or handstand push-ups or pressing weight overhead, we also need a good amount of wrist extension tolerance to support our body weight overhead. Okay. And a lot of times when these people can come in, we can get pigeonholed into just looking at the wrist and be like, okay, well we’re lacking some wrist extension and we need to treat that and we need to calm that down. And we, we stay in our lane right there at the wrist. But what I want to talk about today specifically is going to be really addressing shoulder mobility. in order to free up some space at the wrist. So I have a couple of, uh, I have a PVC that hopefully y’all can see, and we’re going to try to show you, um, why in a non-adequate shoulder mobility can end up putting way more stress at the wrist with these athletes, even if they have a pretty good amount of wrist extension. Okay. So when we’re talking specifically about the front rack position, I’ve got a PVC pipe here. So one thing is going to be where we’re starting with is going to be if we have a lack of lap mobility, a lack of lap mobility is going to not allow our elbows to come forward and up as much. Okay. And so what that leads to is that barbell then sits way more on our wrist and hand than it does on our shoulders. PVC, I got to kind of tuck my chin down and get it there. But the more that we can drive our elbows up, the more that weight then is supported by our shoulders in that good front rack position. If we don’t have the ability to really turn our elbows up high and we keep them low because we don’t have that mobility, then most of that weight then comes through our wrists. And even if we have good wrist mobility, that is still a ton of pressure there coming through the wrist joint. The other side of things is we also need shoulder external rotation in that front rack position to distribute the weight that’s going through our wrist more evenly. So the other front rack position that I see where if we can’t get our wrists and our hands out here, we end up with our wrists right over our shoulders and maybe our elbows even just outside, just like this. And what that does is it forces extension and rotation at the wrist and ends up putting a ton, a ton of stress through that radial side at the wrist. Whereas if we can then open up that shoulder external rotation, that then can distribute the weight more evenly. We can have a flat palm. and a flat wrist into extension. So the other thing when we’re talking about getting overhead, I mentioned handstand walking. If we don’t have adequate shoulder flexion and we are overhead, that leads us to be here and we still are trying to get our feet up and over our body to walk forward. And that then requires a significantly amount more wrist extension if we don’t have all of that shoulder flexion. If we can gain more shoulder flexion then at the top we don’t need to roll over our wrist extension quite as much. So a couple different ways and that could also be a lat mobility problem as well. So what I want to encourage you is we have several tests If someone comes in and they’re saying they’ve got pain with these particular movements, right? First, make sure that they have that adequate wrist extension. And the best test we’ve got for that is really going to be have them place their hand on a table and then see if they can get their elbow beyond 90 degrees at the wrist. Even right at 90, they probably have enough wrist extension to be able to calm those symptoms down, even without gaining wrist extension. So you can still make gains in their pain and treat their wrist pain, even if that wrist extension is a little slower to come. It is typically easier to treat soft tissue mobility restrictions than it is joint restrictions, typically. So a lot of times in our athletes in this population, those shoulder mobility limitations are oftentimes going to be soft tissue related. So we want to then check shoulder mobility. The best test for that, to check lat mobility, is going to be the seated wall test. So if you have the person sit up against the wall, back as flat as they possibly can, PVC pipe then in their hands, palms down, and reach up can they get their knuckles to the wall? If they can, have them then turn those palms up and reach again. And if they come up short of the wall, we can be confident that there is some lap mobility restrictions on board. Okay, that is going to be a situation where treating the shoulder and the lats are going to be a really great way to address the wrist pain, because that will then allow those elbows to come up higher, take stress off of what the wrist is going to have to take on. So if we can decrease stress at the wrist by increasing shoulder mobility, we are doing a good job bumping that wrist pain forward. That’s going to address both the elbows high in the front rack position and oftentimes the stacked overhead position when people are going handstand pushups, handstand walking. So we can kind of knock out two birds with one stone by really looking at the lat mobility. Secondarily, we can also look at shoulder external rotation. Okay. Now this could be a mobility issue. This could also be an external rotator strength issue. Okay. But to check the rotation can have them in supine, bring them to this position and then passively rotate and see if they have that mobility to get into that external rotation. If they don’t, if they can’t access that external rotation in that 90-90 position, we are going to want to start working into that external rotation. That can be with some contract relax. We can do the classic PVC stretch where we work this way and try to warm that up ahead of time before they get into that front rack position. we can also work some like band work in this position working out again contract relax or have the band pulling here stretching out some of those internal rotators and then we can go x internal rotation and then we do eccentrics into external rotation with a band moving that direction that will help to open up some of that external rotation specifically in that front rack position. Okay, so what that will do then is again in that front rack, get us from instead of this position, it will get us more that position and more evenly distribute that weight across the wrist as opposed to it digging into one side or the other.

So overall, If someone comes in with wrist pain, and specifically that wrist pain is happening when they’re in a front rack position, when they’re putting a bunch of weight on their hands from doing handstand walking, handstand pushups, go after and look at the wrist absolutely, but absolutely don’t neglect looking up the chain and looking at shoulder mobility, shoulder strength. If they don’t have adequate lat mobility to get their elbows through in a front rack position or full shoulder flexion in that position, look first at the lats. See if we can’t gain some shoulder mobility from that soft tissue, really be able to get in and through that elbow, take off some of the stress from the wrist. If they have a hard time getting their hands outside of their shoulders and big chest there, start looking at do they have adequate shoulder external rotation, either mobility or strength to be able to maintain that position and again, decrease the stress from the wrist. If you don’t hit that and they don’t have that ability, you can treat the wrist all day long, but they are going to continue to just keep pissing that off because they don’t have any way to overall decrease the stress that that wrist is taking on. Once we can find that root cause of why that wrist is taking on so much weight, then we can start increasing the tolerance to that wrist extension. So we can start mobilizing there, we can start adding back like a plate carry where we’re working here, we can spin that in different ways, all of that, and we can then start working at the wrist. But if we don’t clear the shoulder first, you’re going to be fighting a losing battle overall, because we haven’t addressed why that wrist is taking on so much weight and getting irritated in the first place. Okay, so I just want to keep keep y’all’s heads involved as far as don’t always get tunnel vision onto one joint, right? We always want to look up the chain and seeing if there is something going on that we might be missing. That’s all I got for you for today. So again, just as a quick recap, someone coming in with wrist pain, specifically our barbell athletes going overhead, we really want to clear lap mobility and external rotation mobility at the shoulder and make sure that those things are clean so that we can decrease the stress being put on the wrist. If you want to catch extremity man My last minute plans that you can make it to there. Otherwise, we will be in Kent, Washington on July 13th and 14th or Hendersonville, Tennessee on July 20th and 21st. We hope to catch you out there. We have a ton of different, all of those exercises and techniques that I just talked about are in that extremity course and we go into them in much more depth. So we’d love to catch you out on the road. All right. Hope everyone had a great day. Thanks for listening.

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