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Dr says no more bench!! Need alternative Chest exercise

Posted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:04 am
by xavierjaguilar
I started noticing some wrist pain during bench (including incline and decline) and dips. Some X-ray results showed I have a short ulna, putting undue stress on my radius at the wrist. I never noticed any pain there before, but apparently it's been that way since birth, it wasn't an injury caused by improper training. The only reason I noticed it was that I've been doing more weight lately than I have before.

Anyway, I was told I shouldn't do any bench/chest press or dips from now on...yikes! Trying to stay positive. What kinds of alternative exercises would anybody recommend for General/upper/lower chest? Flys? What else? My wrist doesn't feel pain AT ALL during any exercise but bench and dips, so feel free to recommend whatever you think. Thanks

Posted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:19 am
by KPj
With the greatest respect to doctors, first, I would advise you to see a good/reputable Physical therapist, and see what they think. The recommendation doesn't sound right to me.

I was told about 2 and a half years ago to stop benching by a GP, and i've been benching pain free for about 2, and i'm stronger noe on the bench than I was before I got told that,and continue to get stronger on it. The solution (stop benching), in that sense, was like unplugging the smoke alarm to stop the noise, intead of looking for the fire. I mean, it's possible you shouldn't bench, or do dips or whatever, I'm just saying a GOOD physical therapist would be better versed to advise such a thing.


Posted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:44 am
by stuward
You may be OK with Dumbbells as they don't force your wrist into a fixed position like a bench press or dips would. Different grip positions might help as well. I would get a second opinion anyway. There may be an acute injury that he missed and is blaming it on something else.

Posted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:31 pm
by Jungledoc
KPj, on behalf of all doctors everywhere, I accept your greatest respect. However, we all know that we aren't all equally worthy of it. There is a certain percentage who are incompetent, and another group are just quacks. The large majority are just honest, hard-working souls trying to find the shortest means to a given end. So when you go to the doctor and say "it hurts when I do this" he or she is extremely likely to say (even if not in so many words), "well, then don't do that."

You may want to approach a doctor this way. "It hurts when I do this, but doing this is very important to me. I want to find a way to do this without stopping the activity all together." Like the old story about the lady who got eye pain whenever she drank tea. In the joke, the doctor says, "why don't you take the teaspoon out of the cup first?" However, most real-life doctors would just say, "quit drinking tea."

Now for some nitty and some gritty. One of our mods here is fond of saying something like "correlation does not prove causation." So you have wrist pain and you also happen to have a funny-looking ulna. They may be related. They may not be related. You may have strained a tendon, or over-used something that has nothing to do with the length of your ulna. I don't know, and I wonder if the doctor really knows, either. Just wondering.

The questions I'm asking myself are: Is this a well-known deformity? If so, what is the usual natural history of this deformity? Is it known to cause these symptoms? Is it known that bench-pressing (or at least gripping heavy objects) causes complications for people who have it? Are there treatments that have been helpful for people who have it? Is it known whether the gripping-lifting can cause permanent disability?

That leads me to ask what are the qualifications of the doctor you saw? Was he or she an orthopedist with special knowledge of congenital skeletal malformations? If not, I'd try to find one who is. Best shot at finding someone like that are at a medical school. Many big hospitals have some kind of a consultation line that you can call to find out what specialist can best help you. Better yet if your doctor would make a couple of calls. When I practiced in the US, I knew a few people that I could call at major referral centers and ask "who do you have there who is good with ____?" and either get an immediate answer, or a call back within hours with and answer.

If you can't find a specialist like that, I'd suggest that you experiment on yourself a little. Rest until the pain goes away, then resume benching (maybe just benching, not dipping for now, as you can control more variables with benching) with light weights. Vary your grip width. Vary your wrist position with your grip on the bar. Try using dumbbells in various grips, such as neutral (aka "hammer") grip, with the palms facing each other. See if you can find a variation that doesn't cause the pain, then use it with slowly increasing weight.

KPj's suggestion of a physical therapist is a good one, but your insurance might only pay with a referral from your doctor, and not all PTs are good at this kind of thing. There are PTs who specialize in hands and there are some that special in sports issues. It's probably not realistic to thing that you'll find one with both specialties, but maybe if you could find a PT practice with both kinds, they would collaborate.

Posted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:06 am
by xavierjaguilar
Jungledoc. Wow. Thanks very much for the informative post, those are exactly the kinds of questions I was asking. I've done some looking and my ulna situation is fairly common, there's even a medical term for it (which I've forgotten). Typically, the kind of pain I'm describing is indicative of this condition given that the wrist is hyper-extended in a push-up position.

My doctor was very informative and thorough. He checked out my wrist carefully as well as ordering some X-rays. He didn't find any tendon inflamation, but he did prescribe me a non-steroidal anti-inflamatory. He also referred me to an orthopedic specialist. I can't get in to see the specialist until next month, but here's what I've discovered on my own so far...

This pain actually started last month, but I'm just now writing about it since I had a follow-up with my doctor today. Last month, before visiting the doctor, I tried some of the experimentation you're talking about: I varied grip width, weight, and dumbell/barbell setup. I found that nothing really mitigated the pain except for decline bench which only helped slightly.

For the past 4 weeks, I've stopped lifting altogether, and done purely cardio work. The pain in my wrist was gone while on the anti-inflamatory, but a week or so after I stopped taking it, the pain has returned and stayed. This pain is returning with no lifting at all for the past month...I'm stumped. I suppose I'll see what the orthopedic specialist has to say next month. In the meantime, I'm planning on resuming a light weight training routine minus chest exercises for the time being (maybe just some flys on the Nautilus). Any other advice?

Posted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:39 am
by Jungledoc
Well, good luck with things. I don't have any suggestions of anything that works the chest that doesn't use the hands. If flys and rises don't bother your wrist, they would be better than nothing. Let us know what the ortho has to say.

Posted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 4:35 pm
by Rucifer
What about doing benching on the smith machine? Or some other machine? Might not be perfect, but it does seem to take the pressure off the wrists, at least for me.

Posted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:31 pm
by hillrunner
Question: why do you need to bench press? Are you playing football, bodybuilding or powerlifting? Otherwise, you could simply do slow pushups, Hindu pushups or other things that are more friendly to your shoulders.

Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 12:02 am
by Ironman
Those would all be worse. So he really just needs a 2nd opinion.

Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 1:59 am
by Jungledoc
hillrunner wrote:Question: why do you need to bench press? Are you playing football, bodybuilding or powerlifting? Otherwise, you could simply do slow pushups, Hindu pushups or other things that are more friendly to your shoulders.
Push-ups (except with handles or with "The Perfect Push Up) would put his wrists into full extension, and I think would make the problem worse. His problem is wrist/hand, not shoulder.

Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 1:34 pm
by hillrunner
Yes, understood...basically, it sounds like when he goes into Dorsiflexion the problems begin to arise. Common with bench presses, gymnasts, etc. Agree that pushup handles would work and dips, if he can keep the forearm/hand alignment correct. Otherwise, if you're not a football player, 'bodybuilder', powerlifter, etc., why bother? Think 20, 30 years down the road.

Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 3:53 pm
by nygmen
hillrunner wrote:Otherwise, if you're not a football player, 'bodybuilder', powerlifter, etc., why bother?
To get stronger, bigger, faster... To look better naked, to feel better about yourself, to do something other than sit on his rump all day...

I don't know, I just think that telling someone to forget one of the big three because he isn't competing, especially if the second opinion comes back with better results, is sort of ridiculous. He came here with an issue, because he WANTS to bench (well an alternative to it for now), not because he wants an excuse not to.

"Accumulating injuries are the price we pay for the thrill of not having sat around on our asses. " - Mark Rippetoe

OP... Can you shoulder press? I have to assume no, but if you can, you could press from the perpendicular position, and lean back a few degrees until you can't lean back anymore without pain, using the incline bench. This should get some chest activation.

Also, I broke my wrist in college, I still can't do a pushup without a handle without ultra pain. I just tape the heck out of my wrist, pretty much prevents anything but a few centimeters of range of motion, and I don't seem to get any pain. My hand gets pretty purple sometimes though.

Last summer, my wife hand a window slam closed on her wrist. Doctor could find nothing wrong with it, gave her anti inflammatory, and said do not use it period for 7 days. Well two days in she used her wrist. Doctor yelled at her, don't use it for 7 days, honestly, don't even clench a fist. This time she listened, pain was gone in a week or so.

Hope my silly antidotes help at least somewhat.

Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 4:34 pm
by Jungledoc
hillrunner wrote: why bother?
Well, we don't know, do we? He doesn't spend a lot of time outlining his motivation for lifting. Just like you haven't told us why you run and we could easily say "why bother?" about running or other LSC. He must have a reason, or he wouldn't have started in the first place, and certainly wouldn't have wanted to figure out a way to continue despite his painful wrist. We're back to the spoon in the cup--we're trying to help him get the spoon out, and you just want him to stop drinking tea. He likes the tea.

Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 8:43 pm
by Skull_Crusher
I dont see why you wouldnt be able to do dumbell bench with a neutral grip. (palms facing in)

Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 9:36 pm
by Jungledoc
Skull_Crusher wrote:I dont see why you wouldnt be able to do dumbell bench with a neutral grip. (palms facing in)
Well, since we still don't know the details of the defect, we really can't guess. If it were me, I'd try it and see, but he seems to be waiting for the opinion of the specialist, which is probably the best thing for him to do.