About a week ago, I bruised my right middle knuckle during boxing. It felt sore when I punched, but it was nothing I couldn’t bear. I continued boxing until it started to interfere with my punches. I tried to punch “lightly” but I would occasionally connect badly with the bag and feel a shooting pain run up my forearm.
Dull aches, I generally ignore, but sharp pains that leave me gasping, I take notice of. That and the fact that my knuckle was red and slightly swollen later in the day. Well, perhaps also because I’m in my 40s and there is a fear that the pain is suggestive of something irreversible and more sinister. If I don’t take care, I might expire from my body’s wear and tear. I must prevent that at all costs so here I am trying to figure out what’s going wrong.
Epiphanies rarely come from the thoughts of a single person so I asked around for advice. Was I punching wrong? Maybe I needed more padding? Did I really have to rest it? It turns out, complaining to anyone and everyone who cared to listen was a good idea. The feedback has helped me form my own conclusions.
So here we go – the grandmother story:
I took a week off boxing to rest my knuckle and it went back to normal. Or at least it felt like it was back to normal. When I started boxing again, I was careful to use extra padding and to hit “softer”. Within 10 minutes into the class, I felt the electric current race up my arm. When it happened again, the pain was so sharp, I had to stop boxing mid-round to recover.
After class, I spoke to the instructor who identified the trigger point in my forearm towards my elbow and nowhere near my knuckles. Until he starting palpating the muscle, I had no idea there was anything wrong. It was like a Vulcan nerve pinch. My body buckled from the pain and I could feel my knuckle twinging.
The link between my knuckle and forearm reminded me of the problems I’ve been having with my knees. When my knees hurt, it is usually because one or some of the muscles attached to the knees are tight. Massaging the right spot (foam rolling or using the Hypervolt) usually restores the problem. Since I haven’t had any problems with my arms since my rock climbing days, I haven’t really given them any attention at all. So maybe that’s what I needed to do – just massage my forearms and the pain will go away.
But that was not the end of my story. I noticed that the jolt of pain from my knuckle didn’t only happen during boxing. It was also triggered when I clench my fist and when I rub the knuckle (though not every time). The latter happened when I was absently rubbing my knuckle during dinner and nearly jumped out of my chair from the pain of it. It was like an electric shock went through my whole body, not just my forearm.
I mentioned the problem to my PT and he said I must be flexing my wrist when I box. When I tried the movement with exaggeration, I could feel tightness in my knuckle and my forearm muscle. I realised he had to on to something.
But why was this only happening now? I’ve been boxing solidly for some 3 years now and I’ve never experienced this. If it was an overuse injury, surely it would have flared up in December when I was racking up some serious boxing hours during the Tribe League. I’d come away with bruised knuckles and torn skin but never this jolt of pain – not once, not even a hint of it.
So what changed? In January, I got a new pair of boxing gloves because my old ones were starting to flake off. My old gloves are a Size 8 – a much tighter fit compared to my new Size 10 gloves. There was definitely more room for movement in the wrist area.
I’d also switched from the speed wraps to inner gloves in favour of the extra padding they provided. I was trying to preserve my hands for our annual CNY Miku production because it didn’t seem very hygienic to knead the dough with scabs and raw skin. Unlike the wraps which limit bending at the wrist, the inner gloves provide no such restriction of movement.
Check out the red speed wraps above vs the more heavily padded but less restrictive inner gloves below. It definitely doesn’t help that I have big hands and small wrists.
Compounding the problem is the fact that I’ve always had floppy wrists. The lack of support from the larger gloves and the inner gloves is probably why I started flexing my wrist during my punches. That is very likely how all this trouble started in the first place. Well, it’s my theory anyway. Now we can test it out by reverting to the old gloves and speed wraps to see if it makes a difference. I’ll let you know how it goes after my next class. Watch this space…
Punching with wraps and tighter gloves seems to have resolved the problem.