One of my goals for 2009 was to return to my regular Pilates that I had been skipping for over two months. The night after my first class, as well as the next morning, the bones in my wrists and lower forearms ached. It was a general, dull ache that definitely seemed to be the bones and not the muscle. It’s not the first time this has happened from Pilates either. We did do a variety of plank exercises but I don’t understand why my bones would hurt. Do you know what it might be?
— Pilates Gal in Pain
I think it is great that you made it back to your Pilates class, and your complaint of wrist and forearm pain is a familiar one. Upon returning to a fitness class, be it Pilates or a vigorous yoga class with many vinyasas (the transition that involves a push-up like motion), the wrists can become strained. To learn what I think is going on and how to prevent it,
Anatomically speaking, the bulk of the muscles in the forearm are much closer to the elbow than the wrist and in the lower forearm, the muscles run under tendons and really hug the bones. So if the muscles are sore, the pain can feel deep. Add to that referred nerve pain; the nerves of the wrist can get easily compressed after many planks and push-ups. The referred pain can feel deep and general in the wrist area. I feel your pain — I get a numbness in the lower third of my forearms from overuse (combo of typing, planks, and biking) and it is often delayed and comes on the following morning or day.
There are many ways to avoid compressing your wrists and side-step this pain. Rather than bearing weight on your hands, you should work on your forearms as much as possible. Yes, elbow planks are harder, but you will just get stronger. Also, if the mat you use in Pilates is squishy, it is hard to stabilize the wrist. So ask the instructor to not only check your form but also to suggest a few props to help you keep your wrist in a better position. Stretching your wrists will help too. Good luck!