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Climber's Elbow

Rock Climbers, Elbows, and That Unexpected Ouchie: A Quick Guide to Elbow Injuries and Recovery

Hey there, vertical warriors! If you found yourself landing here after a google search, you're probably dealing with the uninvited elbow pain that's more annoying than someone hogging the climbing wall. Well, let’s give that elbow a safety harness and guide it back to the top!

1. Know Thy Enemy: Elbow Pain in Climbing

Whether it’s the infamous "climber's elbow" (sounds cooler than golfer’s elbow, right?) or the sneaky tennis elbow, we climbers know that these aren’t badges of honor. They’re just plain irritating.

2. Climbing Physical Therapy: Your Tri-Phase Comeback Plan

  • Healing Phase:

    • Expect: Tenderness, pain, and a possible lack of full movement.
    • Actions: Rest and ice. Avoid gripping and lifting heavy objects.
    • Exercise examples:
      • Gentle range-of-motion exercises: Rotate your wrist in both directions, gently flex and extend the elbow.
      • Elbow bends: Keeping the upper arm stationary, slowly bend and straighten the elbow.
  • Loading Phase:

    • Expect: Improvement in pain but possible weakness and discomfort with certain movements.
    • Actions: Start slow. Introduce isometric holds.
    • Exercise examples:
      • Isometric holds: With your affected arm out in front, palm facing down, press the back of your hand against a wall. Hold for 10 seconds.
      • Towel twist: Holding a towel with both hands, wring it out as if you're trying to squeeze water from it. Do it in both directions.
  • Strengthening Phase:

    • Expect: Minor discomfort initially but steadily increasing strength and endurance.
    • Actions: Incorporate resistance and climbing-specific exercises.
    • Exercise examples:
      • Dumbbell wrist flexion: Sit with your forearm on a table, palm up, holding a light dumbbell. Slowly flex your wrist up and down.
      • Eccentric wrist extension: With your forearm resting on a table and holding a dumbbell, use your other hand to lift the dumbbell into wrist extension. Then, slowly lower the weight using only the injured side.

3. Back on the Wall: How to Train Smart

You’ve undergone the phases and are raring to go! But before you do:

  • Warm-up: A mix of dynamic stretches and maybe a dab or two.
  • Body talks: Listen. If it whispers of discomfort, be cautious. If it screams, hit the brakes.
  • Keep it up: Those exercises aren't just for recovery. They're your long-term climbing buddies.

In Closing

If you’re still grappling with questions, if that elbow’s being stubborn, or if you just want someone to check your form on those exercises, don’t play the guessing game. Reach out to a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and tailored treatment. Remember, it's not about climbing hard, but climbing smart.

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