October 10, 2016

Hi Dr. Bell, I was wondering if you have ever heard of someone having hand pain when performing curls? It’s only my left hand and only when I do curls with dumbbells. It usually starts hurting mid-set. Even if I drop to very low weight, I still feel it.

Pain that radiates out through the left arm, chest, back, neck and jaw is likely a symptom of a heart attack. Since you did not mention radiating pain, I will assume your description is muscle-skeletal.

Like the doctor says when you tell him “Doctor, it hurts when I do this…” STOP doing it!

The two primary reasons I see for hand pain in the dumbbell curl are typically lack of supination and not squeezing the handles tight enough.

Men prefer dumbbells or Curling bars because they have less flexibility than women and generally start their curl with the hands slightly pronated (in the down position, observe that your palms are facing more than slightly inward, semi-facing each other).

That is ok, but as soon as you begin the curl, start supinating your hands so that by the time the arm reaches 90 degrees of flexion, the palms of your hands are facing upward. You continue to supinate all the way to the top and at the finish keep supinating by turning your pinky finger inward toward your shoulder as far as your range of motion(ROM) will allow.

The Bicep Brachii is not only the primary arm flexor, it is also the primary supinator for the arm. To work it maximally you have to supinate as well as flex!

The second problem area is that while you are focused on flexing your biceps, you neglect to squeeze the bar.

Strong lifts always start with a strong grip!

The most effective lifts will work ALL the muscles involved in the lift.

For safety, you do not want to be lifting a lot of weight and leave the tissues in your hand soft! Soft is un-protected. Letting your hands soft enables direct stress on the connective tissues of your hand. Flexing your hand muscles hard is the armor those tissues need to protect them from a stainless steel bar bearing down on them with load!

Please review what you learned in the IFPA Personal Training Certification course! I know there is a ton of information in there and a lot to remember, but I provided you all those details to save you from the pain of injuries you can avoid!

Resting the arm and hand is important to reduce pain. Any action that causes you pain, should be stopped. By the time you feel pain, substantial damage has already occurred.

Ice, elevation, compression and resting the arm and hand may help reduce your pain, swelling and inflammation. Ice can be applied for 10-20 minutes at a time, up 3-5 times/day. Usually after 48 hours, the swelling should stop and you can switch to contrast therapy. i.e., hot/cold.

Also, be sure to position your arm/hand above the level of the heart (elevation) as much as possible.

You should see a doctor to make sure it is not something more serious like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If it is a simple hand injury, the above treatment should help.

Make sure you remove your rings/jewelry before working out. A massage may help, as well as wearing a sling. If you are smoking, now would be a great time to stop. Smoking damages circulation.

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