Mel

20th Oct 2015

Question:

Hello!  I've been climbing for about 8 months now and feeling good with accomplishing 6B's pushing sometimes to 6C's, however, I'm starting to suffer with painful wrists and elbows. Is this a strength or a stretching problem?  Can you recommend anything to combat this? Any advice is much appreciated.

Answer:

I’m not an expert in anatomy and physiology but have learnt a few things over the years. Firstly, it sounds like you have very quickly got to quite a decent climbing standard, great! So my question is, was your body previously trained for some sort of sport? If it was, then that explains how you have been able to progress well through the grades.


But it’s worth bearing in mind that climbing is a very complex sport and puts a lot of stress on the body. In fact there aren’t many other sports that put this amount of load through the fingers, arms and shoulders.
So it sounds like what may be going on, is that your larger muscles have hypertrophied (basically got bigger and stronger) over a short period. But for the connective tissues; tendons and ligaments etc, hypertrophy is a slower process. So it may be that your larger muscles are capable of doing more and are making much larger demands on the connective tissues.


Stretching after climbing will definitely help to keep things elongated and flexible, so definitely worth getting into a stretching routine. Tightening of the forearm muscles is a classic way to get elbow problems and more.
You may also need to do exercises that work the smaller muscle groups, that don’t get worked during climbing because the larger muscles dominate.
Here is an interesting article that may help to put you on the right track.


So to recap, stretching is a must do for climbers and working your smaller muscle groups (rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder are a classic group that get neglected) the stabilising muscles and also the antagonistic ones. If you can try to keep on top of this, you are far less likely to develop injuries.
Oh and rest! Very important for recovery. It’s easy to get mad keen and feel like you want to climb as much as possible but resting correctly is as important as training.


Good luck!