Tendinitis, Medial Epicondylitis, Climber’s Elbow, or Golfer’s ElbowJan 15, 2023
Many people might say when they get injured, they just need to take rest and ice it. That's not necessarily true. It's actually far from the truth. In fact, complete rest and ice delay the healing process. So if you take care of your body in the beginning, then you won't have to deal with any consequences later on.
Now, in this blog, let’s talk about one of the common injuries that many climbers experience out there. It’s called tendinitis, specifically medial epicondylitis, also known as climber’s or golfer’s elbow. It's called different things but they’re all the same thing. So let’s dive into it.
Medial Epicondylitis or Tendinitis Defined
In layman’s terms, it is an overuse injury affecting the common flexor tendon. To explain it further, you have forearm muscles that will flex your fingers and wrist, and that help you grip things. So in climbing, you grip the climbing holds which is a huge part of this sport. So all of the muscles on the front of your forearm will connect to the tendon at your elbow, and it's called your common flexor tendon.
Hence, if you are constantly using your forearm muscles to grip and you don't give your body adequate recovery, then this common flexor tendon can break down and get irritated. In addition, if you continue climbing on it and you don't ever give it a chance to heal, then it will continually break down or be inflamed over time, and can actually develop into worse injuries.
A Rest Day in Between Climbing Days
You need to moderate your climbing frequency. Sometimes, especially if you've never had any experience with organized sports, you tend to do things without the knowledge or expertise that may lead you down a path of trouble. In the climbing world right now, I usually hear a common phrase that says “two days on, one day off.”
If you climb multiple days in a row and you don't give your body a chance to recover, then your body is going to break down. Our tendons are made of collagen and they need to be healthy when climbing. Collagen takes almost 48 hours to resynthesize after exercise. Since climbing is a very active sport, and if you are climbing for consecutive days, then the collagen that you have is not resynthesizing to the level that it needs to be. As a result, it will lead you to injuries if you continue climbing on it while your tendons are still breaking down.
Therefore, the best thing you can do is take a rest day in between climbing days. It doesn’t mean that you're just not doing anything at all when you take a rest. It just means you don't climb consecutive days in a row. So during those days, you don’t actually climb on the wall but you can do yoga, meditation, have some stretching exercises, or do some other things that can help you with your climbing.
The second thing you can do is cool down. Warming up and cooling down are two of the easiest things you can do to keep yourself healthy and improve your climbing performance. I hope you all have an understanding of how warming up works and how it helps you as a climber. I also hope that you have the same understanding of the importance of cooling down. It’s another concept that all climbers should do.
In fact, there's no Olympic sport that exists where the athletes don't warm up and cool down. So this is something that all climbers can adopt, and it'll help their climbing. That's how important warming up and cooling down is.
Many climbers might have been dealing with this tendinitis, medial epicondylitis, climber’s elbow, or golfer’s elbow. If that is something that you deal with for years, then sometimes surgery is required. But it’s something that I help my clients avoid as much as possible. So if you notice that you have this injury, please have yourself checked by an expert ASAP to avoid any possible complications in the future. Keep in mind that the sooner you get it treated, the faster it is to recover. The longer you leave it untreated, the longer it takes to recover.
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