The minefield of injuries that climbers face specifically just from climbing is quite extensive. Here’s a list of the most common from most to least frequent:
- Wrists & fingers – A2/ A3 pulley, carpel tunnel syndrome & peritendinitis;
- Elbows – lateral epicondylitis, medial epicondylitis, Bicep & brachialis tendinitis;
- Shoulder / Neck – impingement, tendonitis, rotator cuff tear, tension headaches, cervical strain;
- Knees / groin – adductor strains, hamstring strains, knee ligament sprains, meniscal tears;
- Ankle – planter inversion, dorsiflexion & eversion sprains;
- Backs – lumbar strains.
There’s certainly an attitude towards pain & injury in climbing of ‘if you go climbing what do you expect’. This attitude needs to evolve as the 3 most common causes of injury (overuse, strenuous moves and falls) can all be minimised with training & body care not to mention the effect rest, nutrition and mind-set can have!
We know with peak performance, minimising injury risk and long term health is about keeping the body well balanced and conditioned. Yet most activities and sports we pursue (though giving us a tonne of good times) appear to be hell bent on creating biomechanical dysfunction & potential injury. There’s many potential contributing considerations beyond biomechanics but it is a big piece of the puzzle especially with injuries linked to repeat or maximal physical exertion. We know habitual physical activities cause soft tissue structures to adaptively shorten and over time this creates poor biomechanics – restricts mobility, creates movement dysfunction, reduces force production and destabilises joints.
Bio-mechanical dysfunctions that we typically see from repetitive climbing:
- Hunched over with locked up rounded shoulders lacking external rotation held in place by gnarled up, stiff lats causing all sorts of wonderful crunching noises and impingements;
- Head poking forward held on to by strained, tense neck muscles;
- Hips swaying often aggravating the lower back and SI joints;
- Torso rotation due to dominant pulling side causing much undue torsion stress in the spine;
- Rigid ankles & no bounce in the foot arch for absorbing falls from wearing ridiculously tight shoes;
- Ever reducing bums and leg muscle mass reducing our ability to absorb fall impacts.
All this and yet we still can’t help ourselves pulling on again and again. Ok so the pull of the rock is too strong to resist. We all know we aren’t going to stop climbing just because of poor biomechanics, a pesky injury or niggling pain; but if we do nothing about it, it’s only going to create a problem or exaggerate an existing one. Not looking after your body is like ‘running through a dynamite factory with a burning match’, you might get away with it but chances are it’s going to end in tears. So the best bet to become a better climber, live healthy and squeeze out many years to climb is to look after ourselves and get training to restore and enhance our biomechanics.
For some ideas check out our 9 Point Guide For Climbing Strong & Injure Free and our simple body care exercises for climbers. If you are suffering from a shoulder, elbow or arm injury or pain you will also want to check out Secrets to Solving Sore Shoulders, Aggravated Elbows & Wrecked Fingers – The Thoracic Spine.
Live the Rock Life,