I was speaking with a friend the other day about some pain he was feeling in his wrist. “I feel it mostly when I do the chest press in the gym. I think it was doing that heavy that did it.”

I hear statements like this regularly - “I caused this pain/injury doing X.”

This often not true.

“If doing the chest press was causing wrist pain, wouldn't both wrists hurt?”

“If doing the chest press was causing wrist pain, wouldn't everybody chest pressing have pain in their wrists?”

“If chest pressing was causing wrist pain, how come you hurt a little at rest?”

A few questions like this make it pretty obvious that the exercise/movement/activity is not causal.

In the case of a bilateral movement like this where the piece of equipment fixes the trajectory of the resistance implement, it will often be the case that the moving person with unilateral pain is moving asymmetrically.

Is asymmetrical movement the cause then? I say not often. If I analysed in detail how my friend is doing the movement and then perfectly replicated his asymmetrical act, it probably wouldn't injure me. I only begin making problems for myself when I am stuck doing it that way; when I do it so habitually that I cannot do it another way.

It ain't what you do. It is how you do it. And how much choice you have about how you do it.

Bench pressing is bad for your shoulders. Squatting is bad for your knees. Running is bad for your hips and ankles. Garbage!

How you do these activities and how flexible/rigid you are in those habits will determine how comfortable you are doing them.

There are some activities that will hurt you. Falling from a height over five metres high. Getting hit by a fast moving, heavy object. Taking a joint beyond its anatomical limits. These activities are not fun however well you do them and however free you are in your habits. The laws of nature make sure of that.

Benching, squatting and running and many of those other things that supposedly hurt you are fine activities. Do them well and with freedom and you will be fine too. That is the truth about what hurts you.

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