View Full Version : Sore elbows from rock climbing.

Jeremy Raffer
10-08-2009, 09:36 AM
My elbows get sore if I climb for more than an hour hard and I was wondering if there was anything I can do to treat and prevent this?

Sean Rooks
10-08-2009, 10:22 AM
I get that as well. I'm thinking it is just the early stages of tendinitis since I just started climbing a few months ago and have been going quite a bit. I'm only doing light climbing this week in hopes that it will clears up.

Jeremy Raffer
10-08-2009, 10:29 AM
But why are we getting tendinitis. I dont know about you but I eat strict paleo, crossfit regularly, and am young. I shouldnt be sore.

Scott Borre
10-08-2009, 10:55 AM
But why are we getting tendinitis. I dont know about you but I eat strict paleo, crossfit regularly, and am young. I shouldnt be sore.


How often do you CF, how often are you climbing, what are you doing for recovery. Are you taking fish oil or a vegetarian equivalent? Are you foam rolling?

How much sleep do you get? What is your form like in lifting and climbing?

You don't have to answer all this. But here's the thing, if you are doing pullups to full extension in the bottom and you are climbing, you might have some issues. Some climbers do not go to full extension at the bottom to prevent elbow injuries.

You might simply have overuse/under-recovery injuries.

Jeremy Raffer
10-08-2009, 11:00 AM
perhaps some more omega 3 dosing would help. IM not dosing now. I get 8hrs of sleep every night and crossfit with main site or rock climb. I mean that i workout 3 days on 1 day off and my 3 days on are either the WOD or climbing.

Aaron Gainer
10-08-2009, 01:49 PM
Don't climb for more than an hour for a bit. Let your body adjust to the stress. This is a clear sign of doing too much volume!!!

Ian Kovtunovich
10-08-2009, 02:25 PM
I have been climbing for 17 years, and have gone through plenty of tendonitis. Climb too hard without a good warmup, and you're probably gonna get it. Too much crimping, and you're probably gonna get it. Too much of anything climbing, and it will probably wind up hurting you somewhere!

The most helpful things I have found for the ouchy elbows have been to keep the pushing muscles worked (probably not an issue for you if you're doing CF, but if your WODs have also included a lot of pull-ups, or pulling Oly lifts, or too much pushing, you may be shooting yourself in the foot), and to do wrist/forearm stretches. The stretches I do religiously are to hold an arm straight out in front of me, palm up, grab the fingers with the other hand, and pull them down/back until you get a good stretch in the forearm; hold for 10 or 20 seconds, then do the other hand. The other one is to again start with an arm straight out in front of you, this time palm down, and grab the fingers or hand with your other hand, and again, pull down, this time until you get a good stretch in the other side of the forearm (i.e. if the last stretch was on the "bottom" of your forearm, this would be on the "top" - maybe someone who knows a lick about anatomy can clarify my worthless terminology!). The latter stretch requires a little work to find the sweet spot, and can be a little uncomfortable at first as it requires bending the wrist a bit. I find that rotating the wrist a little as I pull on the stretch (i.e. pull with the fingers pointing more towards your body or more away from your body) helps find the spot that is giving me the most stretch action in the muscles. I like to do these before and after climbing, or any workout with a lot of pushing or pulling involved (e.g. pullups, dips, burpees, deadlifts). There are variants of the same stretches that can be done by kneeling with one knee on a flat bench and pressing the palm or back of your hand down on it and leaning over it - whatever works for you, I guess.

If you search WebMD for carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis/golfer's elbow, they have a page about treatments you can do yourself, that outline the stretches above.

It also occurs to me that if you are killing it CrossFitting and doing tons of pushing or pulling movements, that this could be the cause of your tendonitis, and climbing could simply be aggravating it. Either way, the stretches outlined above will be hitting both sides of the elbow, so you should find some relief.

Hope it gets better. Joint injuries are such a hassle, and so hard to resolve sometimes. Just wait 'til you tweak a tendon pulley - talk about your frustrating recoveries, oy vey!

Steven Low
10-08-2009, 05:06 PM
Medial epicondylitis... yay. Tendonitis is overuse dude. You did too much.

See this I wrote for tendonitis wfs

Frank E Morel
10-08-2009, 05:15 PM
from previous post

ude.. it has nothing to do with your diet.. it has everything thing to do with your climbing.


Four soft tissue injuries of the elbow (Figure 5 ) caused by slow regeneration of tendon tissue after repeated microtrauma are recognized: classic medial and lateral epicondylitis, anterior elbow pain (climber's elbow), and triceps tendonitis. Very high stress in climbing leads to insertion tendonitis from such microtrauma. The superficial finger flexors, the wrist flexors, and the pronator teres muscle all insert at the medial epicondyle of the elbow. If those muscles, which perform most of the grasping and holding of climbing, are overused and are not allowed to regenerate adequately, medial epicondylitis develops. Lateral epicondylitis develops as an overuse syndrome of the wrist and finger extensors and the supinator muscle, which insert on the lateral epicondyle. Overuse of the less well-trained extensor muscles in climbing results because optimal power of the flexors is obtained only when the wrist is extended.

Anterior elbow pain, or climber's elbow, was first misdiagnosed as biceps tendonitis but actually is tendonitis of the brachialis muscle. It is caused by overuse of this muscle in a position where the biceps muscle is not or is only insufficiently functioning, which occurs with flexion and pronation of the elbow, particularly during long traverses on climbing walls.

Triceps tendonitis occurs after mantle-shelf movements, during which arms flexed at the elbow and pushing downward initially support the body's weight. Injuries occur when the arms and elbows are extended to push the body higher.

In some individuals, antecubital fossa pain is not an indication of a lesion of the brachialis or biceps brachii muscles, but of compression of the posterior interosseous nerve (a branch of the radial nerve) between the 2 lamina of the supinator muscle, which can be inflamed and swollen by excessive climbing.

Simple conservative therapy such as icing, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and relative or absolute rest followed by a gradual return to climbing should be sufficient for most elbow problems. For severe injuries, immobilization of the elbow joint with a splint or a cast may be needed for a short time. Surgical intervention for nerve compression syndrome has been described.

The strength of both flexor and extensor (agonist and antagonist) muscles must be checked to ensure balance. Climbers must be encouraged to include training and stretching of all forearm muscles in their daily exercise program.

in climbing, key risk factors for finger and elbow injuries are probably poor footwork, a 'rushed' climbing pace and a habit of locking off and pulling up to initiate moves rather than initiating movements with your feet. Of course, there are risk factors in the areas of training practise, nutrition and lifestyle and genetics as well, but these may be less significant that movement technique.
So, the message is clear - to prevent injury occuring or recurring, look at your movement technique.

Blair Robert Lowe
10-10-2009, 08:14 PM
On a note, most of the climbers I've met don't work enough pushing exercises, don't work inverted pulling and hardly do any prehabilitation and prevention work or think about how much volume they're doing.

They seem willing to take rest breaks but that's about it.

However, I've yet to really meet any pro climbers or look too much into it.

Ian Kovtunovich
10-11-2009, 01:44 PM
On a note, most of the climbers I've met don't work enough pushing exercises, don't work inverted pulling and hardly do any prehabilitation and prevention work or think about how much volume they're doing.

I think this is pretty accurate of climbers in general. I certainly didn't think too much about stretching and working the antagonist muscles until after a SLAP tear and subsequent surgery to repair it. I think it's because climbing starts out so easy, and people can just treat it as recreation for the first few years. I also didn't really start getting injured until I was climbing hard enough that I had to train regularly to keep improving, but I didn't know a lick about overuse or responsible training (this was years before I heard of CF, or even before CF was really around). The higher volume of bad holds on harder routes (shallow two-finger pockets, heinous crimpers, etc.) really compounds the toll climbing takes on the body, too. Climbing also seems to really suck people in, to the exclusion of any other activities - there is so much variety in the climbing experience, and continual room for technical improvement, it really rewards obsessive participation!

Many of my friends, most of whom climb harder than I do, have eventually run up against the tenuous balance between improving at climbing and being perpetually injured. I envy the people who can keep cranking away on viciously hard moves without blowing their connective tissue to h*ll. Bah! :(

Blair Robert Lowe
10-11-2009, 04:12 PM
This is also true with most rec athletes. Take a look at the marathoners for example and overuse injuries.

And this is why I think I've come to the point that I don't want to deal with rec athletes in any modality.

Even when you explain, if they understand, they won't bother executing on what they agree they should do.

Waste of my time. I'm taking the Steven Low approach.