The recent post about how damage doesn’t ’cause’ pain hopefully made more sense of why pain can be weird and confusing. But as usual with science, it also left people with more questions! As always, check the pain section for frequent updates on what to do about persistent pain.
I was asked on the Facebook page about wrist pain:
“as bboys, do we have to fear pain? or could we “overcome” it? Ive heard one of the best bboys in my area said: “If you hurt your wrist, continue to practice with it, it will become accustomed/ immune to pain”. Is that true?” – Lou Musou
Very good question!
The answer is really: don’t fear it, understand it. Then you’ll know what to do.
As we now know, pain can mean different things in different situations (and different people). I’ll answer this question using a few different scenarios common for B-Boys (to the readers who aren’t dancers, b-boy is the proper term for ‘break-dancer’).
This decision making process should still be applicable to any athlete.
Summary at the bottom!
Scenario 1: Just started breaking:
You just started dancing, so you are learning the basics. Footwork and freezes (anything on the ground) especially stresses the wrists when you are first learning, for two reasons:
1. Your wrists are not used to it: this includes flexibility, strength, and yes, pain tolerance.
You need to ‘extend‘ your wrist (bend it back) about 90 degrees, which is pretty much full range. Then, you bear your entire body weight on it, often with impact and force and moving and twisting etc.
Although many moves are learned up high on your hand (carpal pads) which saves the wrist from such a stretch, many moves require a flat palm on the ground for stability.
2. You are spending more total time in these positions. When you get better, and you are actually dancing, you will be changing position often enough that your wrists don’t have to stay stretched / bearing weight as long. Even now when I teach lessons and I am doing something in slow motion, I still feel the wrists get a little sore. I’ve been dancing now for 8 years.
What to do: In this case, as long as the pain isn’t severe, keep practicing. Practicing will provide the best specific stretching you can get to build the flexibility you need, as well as the specific strength.Taking too many breaks, and stopping as soon as it hurts a little, may keep you from getting used to it.
If the pain is lasting more than a day after practice, though, then you need more rest before practicing again. Forcing yourself to practice on painful wrists will either build tolerance (if you’re lucky), or begin the process of developing a repetitive stress injury (RSI) or a persistent pain condition.
Scenario 2: You’re experienced, but training a lot for an event.
This is pretty much the same thing. You are training more and getting less rest. The solution would be pretty much the same: take a day to avoid wrist work and practice top-rock, or even rest completely. Rest is insanely neglected by athletes. Be smart to avoid injury and chronic pain.
Masters of any athletic skill who stay active as they age are very good at getting more done in less time, allowing for more rest and better quality practice. You can still dig for music, watch practice footage, and plan for a more productive practice while resting.
Scenario 3: You actually have an injury.
If you just sprained your wrist by rolling over your hand, you actually have an injury. You’ll know it, because it’ll hurt just to move it.
But in this case, pain is normal. It’s a good thing, or you would keep dancing on it and not allow it to heal. Pain protects you… keeps you from being a giant dummy!
What to do: If this happened… yes, you have to rest. But this time, use the pain as a guide, and start moving as soon as possible to speed up recovery.
PRICE – Your first step after most injuries.
Rest for Injuries – How to stay active while resting your injury.
Early Mobilization – How to start getting the injury moving ASAP.
Active Recovery – How to gradually get back to what you want to do.
Check the injury section of this site for more information! Updated frequently!
Scenario 4: Persistent, confusing pain.
This is why I have a whole section dedicated to pain. The above scenarios make sense… but sometimes you have wrist pain that seems to flare up every time you practice, even when you take a week off, and you don’t remember doing anything specific to injure it.
Chances are, you either 1. actually did injure it, and you haven’t given it enough rest, or 2. you have developed a persistent pain condition (chronic pain), possibly because of a repetitive stress injury, or a past injury not taken care of (or both, who knows?).
In this case, it’s not wise to just ‘suck it up’ and keep practicing.
When it comes to chronic pain, you don’t just “get used to it”. That’s the problem: it usually just gets worse.
What to do: First things first, in case it was actually number 1. – an injury you don’t remember, start resting. It may be the only thing that you need, it’s the easiest, cheapest, and most effective solution, most of the time. Basically, follow the same suggestions as above for scenario 3, except you probably don’t need ‘PRICE’.
In case it’s actually 2. – chronic pain: learn about Pain, because it actually treats pain. Yes, education on pain helps kill pain. Not joking! Then, start gradually using the wrist again: using graded exposure as your strategy for increasing movement while avoiding a ‘flare-up’.
And of course, if you would like to have a professional look at it, go see your physician first to make sure it isn’t anything serious.
Choosing a therapist: I’d highly recommend finding someone who is up to date on modern pain science. When pain gets confusing, that’s when weird theories and ridiculous treatments start popping up. Get someone who knows whats up!
Scenario 1: you’re new. – keep practicing, get used to it, but don’t be stupid.
Scenario 2: you’ve been training a lot. – take a day off.
Scenario 3: you actually ‘hurt’ your wrist; injury – rest, and read the injury section!
Scenario 4: possibly chronic pain – rest, and check out the pain section.
Confused? See a professional. see disclaimer
That’s it! Hope this was helpful!