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I'm very much enjoying my boxing lessons and have been going for about 1 month, 2-3 times a week. Recently though, I took about a week off, as I found my wrists and elbows very sore. My wrists were (and are still) sore on the inside part and my elbows are sore on the outside part. I'm not quite sure what is causing it. For elbows, people have suggested I'm overextending during shadow boxing. It's also been suggested (see my other posts) that shadow boxing with light weights can be bad for elbows. Unfortunately, I can't really do much about how the class is taught (not using or using weights for instance). For the wrists, I've had two suggestions:

  • hitting the heavy bag wrong. Not hitting with knuckles but rather with another part of fist that results in bending of wrist
  • bad hand wrapping (I think I'll post a separate question about this!). Of course, advice you get on the internet is always better than advice you get in person, so I want to hear from this group too :)

It's sort of an annoying problem because I'm really enjoying myself and I don't want to be sidelined by a nagging, but very annoying, problem. So my questions:

  1. How to prevent wrist and elbow soreness?
  2. Once you have sore elbow and/or wrist and advice to take care of them?
  3. Exercises/drills to strengthen wrists and elbows if that is what is needed?

Thanks, Dave

Additional info that I should have included.

  1. I'm 47 so (unfortunately) the answer "you're just old man. Your joints are going to hurt", can't be completely brushed aside.
  2. I'm a software engineer, so I do need to be able to type. As I write this, I'm noticing pain in my wrist. And no, I have never had carpal tunnel syndrome in 15+ years of programming. So I'm pretty sure the pain is due to boxing. The typing is probably making me more aware of it! I must continue to program to make money until I can turn pro and make millions of dollars with title bouts :)
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    How's your diet? – Dave Liepmann Nov 13 '14 at 18:34
  • Well, I think my diet is pretty good but then folks that are busy gulping down mountain dew and chocolate probably say the same thing! Seriously, I eat 3 meals a day, meat with at least one of those meals. I don't care for milk, but I eat yogurt and cheese and try for 5 servings of fruit/vegetable per day (currently almost all tangerines since our tree is bloom). 2 glasses of red wine most days with dinner. I'm 5'9" and < 145 lbs so definitely not fat. See also my edits at end of question. Thanks for the quick comments. I'm hoping to be "good enough" for Saturday (next class for me!). – Dave Nov 13 '14 at 20:05
  • Thanks for all the great answers. I can only pick one unfortunately. My wrist are feeling better. Elbows still sore but getting better and I'm working on not over extending them. – Dave Nov 20 '14 at 17:57
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(FYI /- I'm not a boxer... I train in full contact karate and do a lot of target and bag work, normally without gloves or wraps - just saying because gloves bring their own safety risks when it comes to your hands as you can't form as tight a fist, so actual boxers may have some further insights there. I've been teaching martial arts since the 80s on and off. Day job C++, 40s...)

Firstly, stress itself can cause fractures even if your technique's ok - it's a huge shock to the body to go from nothing to punching as hard as you can in a month or three. So, ease into it... back off now while you're sore, then try to find a gradual increase of intensity that doesn't crosses the line to regular discomfort or injury.

For wrists, I recommend trying to improve the stabilising muscles in the wrist that prevent the wrist bending when you hit something... one good way to do so is to get in a pushup position (doesn't matter if the body's just off the floor or all the way up) while only the last centimetre or so of your index and middle finger knuckles are supporting your weight - do not let the joins near the middle of your fingers touch the floor... the idea's to get to the stage where that's no effort and you can do it for as long as you like - until then, just do what's comfortable without getting to the point where you just can't keep the wrists straight.

If you have some weights, rest your elbow and forearm on any surface - wrist just over the edge, hand facing first up then down, and do some sets of dipping and lifting the wrist.

Pushups on your finger tips will help too - in fact pretty much any pushup position. Slightly more intense - you can find a wall or other surface about waist high and push down with your knuckles to lift you off the ground - again trying to make sure only the last centimetre of your knuckles touches the surface.

As well as strengthening, consider how you're hitting - experiment a bit on the bag to find out which angles are comfortable and solid - where you can feel the same part of the fist you were touching the ground with during the pushup position above biting in to the bag while the wrists aren't strained. For example, relative to a line between your head and the bag, you might find you can hit with a bit of a hook coming in to the bag about 45 degrees much more comfortably than at ~55 degrees... get used to the comfortable angle and try to keep to it during classes. If you have to hit at a less comfortable angle for some reason, hold back a bit on the power. You may well find the hook angle that's comfortable's different for a vertical fist position (i.e. palm facing sideways) vs. horizontal (palm down).

For any punch on a target, you can squeeze the forearm a little as you hit to stabilise the wrist, and start slowly - gradually increasing power as long as you're feeling stable... (once those muscles develop you can stop the conscious extra squeeze thing as it'll be reducing your speed and power).

For elbows - well - you might decide to compromise on the following suggestion later in order to your elbow tucked in protecting your ribs / liver longer, but until you've got a really good punch, and when you want maximum power, just avoid letting the forearm swing outwards to straighten or lock the arm. Not only does doing so cause injury, it degrades power. Most of the time, consciously move your elbow and hand along the same line or curve towards your target. Put another way - after your backswing, if you were punching towards your opponent's head, they'd just see your fist with the elbow hidden behind it. If you get used to this, the elbow won't be wanting to straighten 100% anyway... punching full power, I lock not into a straightened elbow position but into a naturally "tensed-muscle" position a few degrees short of the elbow being fully locked... it's not "holding back" - just a consequence of technique.

  • Thanks for the tips Tony! I would add to your comments that not only "can't form as tight a fist", but you can't form a fist at all. I've been wondering lately if this is part of the problem. Perhaps I'll post a separate thread with pictures of my gloves and see what folks say. I have started to do pushups, and I'm taking some time off so hopefully that will help. You'll be glad to know I'm taking it easy on the programming too. I do C#, not C++ :) – Dave Nov 16 '14 at 14:37
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I would suggest you take a week or so off from training just to let your niggles calm down, then try again. You've been doing it for a month - it is perfectly normal to feel soreness in strange places any time you start something new. You are not used to feeling pain in those area which is why you notice it more.

The elbow pain is quite possible hyper extension of the elbow joint while punching. Check this previous reply for a bit more detail.

As for your wrists, it could be just very mild tendon or muscle strain or fatigue. I'm also a software engineer so I'm well accustomed to the niggles with that profession - mostly they manifest as persistent ache in the anterior deltoid (front of the shoulder), knots in the trapezius or rhomboideus (upper back, back of shoulder into neck), or as sharper pain in the wrist/palm area. You've changed what your body is used to, and now ou're forcing your wrists and shoulders to do work - so of course you are going to notice some discomfort in these areas, especially if you're not allowing enough time between sessions for the muscles to repair themselves.

Binding your wrists better may help, although I'm a fan of learning to punch without wraps (I think it leads to better strength and technique).

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Assuming that you have a nutritious diet and go to your boxing classes regularly, it is recommended that you take at least three days off for the pain in your wrists and elbows to go away because during training you may have hyper extended your elbow by accidentally missing the sand bag where the full power of the jab or cross could have hyper extended the elbow; or the training and stress of lifting weights concurrently may have weakened the cartilage between your elbow, resulting in that terrible pain. (Trust me i had this annoying pain before)

Your wrists may be hurting due to excessive drill excersises or your wrsit may have turned at an angle once you hit the sand bag in a strange way.

To get rid of the pain in your Elbows and Wrists you should not use a muscle relaxant, because it masks the pain. Instead use volatren gel on your wrist and your elbows to get rid of the pain.

Volatren Gel is amaizing and is three times better than any muscle relaxant creme, because Volatren gel is an anti-inflammatory gel that relieves joint pain.

I use Volatren Gel to get rid of the muscular pain in my knees and elbows, but there will still be pain at the bone of the join, so i then immerse my joints in a hot water bath and take atleast two days off from training as soon as the pain subsides. I know that you may want to keep going with your training because, of the no pain no game motto that i lived by when i was 15, but it's better to avoid permanent damage and take only two days off, while remedying and conditioning your body to a whole new level of pain and experience.

I took MMA and I suggest you consider my advice

Hope this helps!

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I started boxing when I was younger but stopped because of concussions. In that time I progressively learned how to punch, move, pivot and use proper footwork in order to throw a powerful punch, so my wrists gradually built up strength. I missed boxing and joined my gym and started using the heavy bags. I wrapped my hands well (although I only had 108" wraps and got 180" Mexican style wraps after 2 weeks) I wore a 10oz boxing glove and I proceeded to hit the bag. I am left handed, and I threw a lot of hooks at the bag which were very powerful.

The first day I went home and my wrists were slightly tender the next morning and I returned the next day and did the same thing. My wrist sprained just a little bit but not bad enough to the point where I would stop so I went on punching it. The next morning I could not move my left hand at all without sharp pain! I couldn't even write or text with my left hand. So I waited two days, the pain subsided mostly but some was still there, and I hit the heavy bags again. Next morning same thing, but I had more range of motion in the wrists and less pain. I took a day off and went back. Next day same story but less pain and more range of motion. And I continued the same pattern and slowly but surely it got better.

What helps a lot also is stretching your wrist and thumb in every way possible after boxing. Also use Mexican style 180" wraps to cover you wrist slightly and make a heavy padding on your knuckles, and then wrapping over your wrist extensively and your palm slightly with a 108" cloth wrap for stability in your wrist. The extra knuckle padding from the 180" wraps will absorb a lot of force for you hand. After a couple of weeks, take off the extra 108" and you should be fine.

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In addition to the other answers, I'd suggest looking for a pair of gloves that offers better wrist support. I train Muay Thai (and was previously doing boxing) and have flimsy, injury-prone wrists. I'm much more comfortable in some gloves than others. I consider the Hayabusa Tokushu a standout for being much stiffer through the wrist area than most models and for having a elasticized dual closure system that means you can make them as snug around the wrist as you want. I've found a good resource to be Boxing Gloves Review.

In the long term, barbell training might help improve your wrists' and shoulders' ability to stabilize under a load. I'm certainly not an expert on that, though.

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I boxed at university, i suggest that it's largely due to you being so new to it, and more so that you've been training a lot for a novice.

Press ups can cause wrist and elbow pain, jarring on the heavy bag will cause wrist and elbow pain.

It makes sense when you think that you are causing pressure to occur over and over between the dozens of bones in your arm.

First thing is go easy, focus on technique and not power, let your coach know you are having problems, and practice push ups on you knuckles to get the alignment of your punching hand correct (if you struggle with push ups on your knuckles it's no wonder your having problems a hard hit on the heavy bag is more stress than knuckle push ups).

Finally, if you go and train legs in the gym, your legs get sore in the beginning, the same thing is happening to muscles you haven't used before in your arms.

all the above said, I would caveat that I'm not a doctor and I would suggest getting checked out in case there is an underlying issue, and even if I were I couldn't diagnose you from the above, and the above is based purely on my own experience.

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I've been boxing competitively the past 2 years and I get this issue too, especially when I hold pads or 'catch' (wearing gloves) for others. Over time the repetitive use can affect the tendons in your forearms, causing particular tenderness near the elbow. Stretching the extensors (backs of the forearms) and (the ones on the inner forearm), and strengthening the wrists doing wrist curls with light weights and knuckle push ups is supposed to help.

Also, when you hit the bag make sure it is with the flat, front part of your fist, and try squeezing your fist at the point of impact. Turning your body into your punches so that you don't rely solely on arm power also helps you distribute the workload throughout your body. Little steps with each punch make it come from the toes all the way up, like a whip, and your hips share the job of pivoting with your shoulders.

I also found sleeping with compression bandages over my forearms reduced my discomfort when they were aggravated. It's an awesome sport for learning about body bio-mechanics. (Sometimes the hard way!) Enjoy.

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I have been boxing/kickboxing for the past 6 years and when I started I definitely had elbow soreness. It sounds like overextending the arm as well especially if its your non dominant hand! Two days rest and icing helps a lot.

Also, be watchful of your knees while pivoting, another mistake I did in my early days. I would let my knee lag behind at the pivot point during shadow boxing and target/heavy bag work and my right knee was sore for about 3 weeks! Minor mistakes we all have made as beginners.

  • Welcome to the site. I edited your answer a little to make it easier to read and to remove some unnecessary verbiage. – Sardathrion - Reinstate Monica Aug 24 '16 at 15:04
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I've been hitting a heavy bag for 40 yrs aside of the fact getting my palms punched by many fighters, It comes with the sport, just remember always swing in a upward motion,that is everyone's best punch. Last a 3-4 day resting period is needed along with ice compress to the wrist, For novice throw more punches with less power is most important. build stamina most important.!

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