If you've noticed a pea-shaped bump on your wrist that seemingly came out of nowhere, you might have a ganglion cyst. These cysts are not harmful, but they can cause pain depending on where they are located.
Standard push-ups require you to bend your wrist backwards which can put pressure on a ganglion cyst and cause pain. Sometimes these cysts are removed surgically -- particularly if your pain interferes with your daily activities.
Read more: Wrist Ganglion Exercise
What is it?
A ganglion cyst doesn't look nice, but it is not likely to be dangerous. Although it might feel firm to the touch, these nodules are filled with fluid. According to a study published in 2014 by Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma, these cysts are located on the back of the wrist 60 to 70 percent of the time. However, they can be found on the front of the wrist or the tips of the fingers.
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Ganglion cysts can fluctuate in size. At times, they are swollen. The swelling may decrease, making the cyst appear smaller. In some cases, ganglion cysts aren't as close to the surface of your skin and you might not see them at all.
Ganglion cysts can be mysterious -- the exact cause of these bumps is not known. According to a study published in 2014 by Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma, 10 percent of people with ganglion cysts previously experienced trauma to the area. These cysts also appear more frequently in people who repeatedly put stress through the wrist, such as gymnasts. Ganglion cysts tend to affect women more than men, and most often show up in the second through fifth decade of life.
If your ganglion cyst isn't painful, it might not require treatment. In some cases, ganglion cysts go away on their own. In the "old days," these bumps were called Bible cysts. They were treated by smashing the cyst with a heavy book. Obviously this technique can damage other structures in the hand, and it is no longer used.
Ganglion cysts that cause pain might be drained by a doctor. This technique prevents the cyst from returning 50 percent of the time. However, the gold standard for treatment is surgery to remove the cyst. After surgery, the cyst recurs less than 10 percent of the time. After surgery, you might have physical therapy to improve range of motion in your wrist or finger.
Ganglion Cysts and Push-Ups
During regular push-ups, your wrists are bent backward when you put your palms on the ground. Because the majority of ganglion cysts are on the back of the wrist, push-ups can be painful. However, these exercises can be performed with your wrist neutral, or straight. Try knuckle push-ups, push-up bars or push-ups on kettlebell or dumbbell handles to achieve a straight wrist.
Ganglion cysts that occur on the back of a finger should not interfere with push-ups, however cysts on the palm or front of the finger could cause pain with this exercise. Cysts in these areas are very rare.
Read more: How to Do Knuckle Pushups
Push-ups strengthen your chest, upper arm and back muscles. However, if push-ups cause you too much pain, consider swapping them out for other exercises that work the same muscles such as bench presses with a barbell, cable chest flys or chest presses. With each of these exercises, keep your wrist straight to avoid pressure on your cyst, regardless of where it is on your wrist.
Ganglion cysts can make other exercises uncomfortable. If your cyst is on a finger, you might have difficulty with barbell or dumbbell exercises. Consider using exercise machines that stabilize the weight for you so you don't have to grip as tightly.
- Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma: Dorsal Wrist Ganglion: Current Review of Literature
- Muscle & Fitness: Chest Workout Guide
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Ganglion Cyst of the Wrist and Hand
- American Association for Hand Surgery: Ganglion Cyst FAQ
- Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine: Ganglion Cysts of the Wrist: Pathophysiology, Clinical Picture, and Management
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.