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What is Climber’s Elbow?

Feb 26, 2023

Climber's elbow has a bunch of different names, but what is it? Climber’s elbow is an overuse injury from the wrist and finger flexors. Flexion is when you're bending your hand toward the palm. When you do this too many times, the repetitive bending and gripping can create small tears in your tendons. All of your flexor muscles, whether that be your finger flexors or your wrist flexors, come down and connect to a bump on your elbow called your medial epicondyle. So if you overuse it, and you don't give yourself adequate recovery or rest, then the microtears can occur and get worse over time. 

But, why is this important for climbers? 

We use the flexor muscles, your finger and wrist flexors, to hold on to the hand holds when climbing. If you are experiencing pain in that particular part of your elbow, this can stop you from climbing. If your symptoms are severe enough, it will be so painful that you cannot grip or climb at all. That's definitely not what we want. We are climbers and climbing means something more to us than just exercise. So definitely take this seriously and don't let it develop into something worse.

Tendinitis and Tendinosis 

Tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendon which might be after a climbing session. You notice that it's swollen a little bit or maybe a little bit tender. On the other hand, tendinosis is where you have been dealing with it for a long time and it hasn't recovered. It starts breaking down the tendon, and it becomes much more painful. In fact, it's much more complicated to treat.

When you start feeling these symptoms, like the pain or irritation in your elbow, address it as early as possible to avoid it getting worse. Remember that prevention is better than cure

If you take the steps to make sure that this doesn't happen, you're preventing it from happening. It's much better to get into the habit of preventing it than it is to address it after it becomes a full-blown medial epicondylitis, or worse, medial epicondylosis.

Cool Down

Let's do the things necessary to take care of our bodies so that they can withstand climbing for our entire lives. One area that climbers neglect is a cool down. When you're done climbing, you need to do something to cool down. I want to share with you this 3D forearm stretch.

After you climb, your forearm muscles are usually pretty tight. If you don't do anything to help turn your muscles off, then they're going to stay stuck there. And if you keep adding to that and you're just climbing without doing anything to help you recover, you're going to run into these problems.

This exercise that I'm going to share with you is a 3D forearm stretch. Again, you have to do this exercise in the three planes of motion. 

  • Sagittal plane
  • Coronal plane
  • Transverse plane

To know more details and instructions on how to do this exercise, please watch the entire video above for a complete demonstration.

If you've ever had full-blown medial epicondylitis or a climber's elbow, you will know that it is worth it to prevent it from happening. It's the type of injury that could put you out for eight weeks. Then on top of that when you get back into climbing, you’ll have lost a lot of the strength you had. Get into the habit of regularly cooling down and taking care of your forearms so that it doesn't develop into climber's elbow.

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