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    Hey guys just wanted to ask the climbing community a question relating to elbows and climbing. Thought i would seek your guys advise before going to a GP who has no idea what the problem is. Basically when i started climbing all was good worked up the grades indoors and doing a fair bit of bouldering.

    Anyways after one session i noticed a bit of discomfort in my elbows. From what i can gather from other people it seems like its similar to tennis elbow. So like a good boy i stopped climbing until they felt better. About a week.

    Then i got back into some bouldering and sure enough by my third or fourth session i got the same discomfort. So i stopped for about a month to fully recover.

    When i got back into climbing again this time i took it easy, stretched properly each time and slowly increased my climbing difficulty and length. Now i have reached about the same level where i was the last two times and i am having the same problems. After a solid boulder especially in the morning i experience the same discomfort in my elbows but it eases through out the day as i work. Has anyone had anything like this before? I am wondering if it is an injury or am i just experiencing some sort of growing pain from forearm pump etc.

    Sorry for the long write up but any advise would be great. Thanks again..


    Dear Climber

    The problem you are experiencing is a common one and there are a number of factors, including your age, frequency and intensity of use and indoor vs outdoor climbing.

    You may have sustained an acute injury or possibly developed tendonitis. Triceps tendonitis-like I sustained last year and am still dealing with-is quite common. Repeat or overuse is a problem for us, especially as we tend to use our muscles in a very unbalanced way.

    Bouldering is great for building strength but also really hard on the body. Likewise, climbing in the gym a lot (you didn’t say how much indoors you are doing) is also hard on the fingers and body in general as it tends to be quite gymnastic in nature. Injuries are very common. And I can vouch for the fact that as you get just that bit older, your body will be less forgiving of gym exploits and bouldering.

    I went to see a sports doctor who also looks after the Eagles and he quite cheerfully told me that as you get older and keep doing the same activity that previously never caused a problem, issues like tendonitis crop up. And tendonitis will tend to run whatever course it’s going to-in my case he said 12-18mths. It’s important not to aggravate it because you can certainly make it worse. This doesn’t mean not climbing but it does mean being careful. I certainly wouldn’t be bouldering at the moment. Stretching like you are doing is really important generally.

    The only person who can tell you whether you sustained an acute injury or if it may be more of a chronic problem is a good sports GP who may refer you to an elbow specialist (surgeon). Not because you need surgery but because often they are the ones who can tell you exactly what’s going on and how to manage it. You may benefit from physio or other rehab with specific exercises etc.

    Hope this helps. I would suggest that you have it checked out by a reputable sports doctor. Opinions about how to manage these problems varies a bit as well.

    If you want to discuss further then please feel free to email me at cawa@climberswa.asn.au.

    Luke B

    Have a look at this article:


    I found it floating around on a few overseas climbing websites, did the recommended exercises for a couple of weeks, and the problem (tendonosis in my case) has gone away without me even having to slow down my training/climbing habits.

    Apparently it will be a recurring problem until you can specifically strengthen the offending tendon.

    Anecdotal evidence I know, but worth a shot (provided your injury is tendonosis/tendonitis and not something more acute).


    Recent resarch into eccentric exercises report remarkable success treating tendonitis. See the New York times article below.



    Sorry , was looking at Luke’s article, pasted the wrong one.

    h ttp://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/25/phys-ed-an-easy-fix-for-tennis-elbow/

    Luke B

    I like the rubber bar, looks easier than wrestling with a dumbbell.

    I’d like to know why eccentric exercises aren’t the default prescription if the benefits are well known – I keep hearing about rest, ice, straps, injections etc. None of which seems to help very much, and certainly doesn’t address the root of the problem.


    Eccentric exercises are quite new. I havn’t tried for elbows but had suprisingly good results for achilies tendonitis (drop heel eccentric exercise). On the elbow exercises it’s encouraging to see that the reported study was abandoned halfway through since it was regarded as unethical to with-hold the treatment from the control group.

    I’d be interested to hear if anyone has bought the amazon rubber bar.


    I believe that most climbing injuries are a result of a muscular imbalance, which develops when people do a lot of climbing and no other relevant exercise (cross training). This develops the “monkey hunchback” physique, which is pretty apparent on many people in the gym.

    It is important to exercise the muscles and tendons which are NOT used for climbing. Dr Julian Saunders has a regular column in Rock and Ice (you can subscribe to it for about A$8 per copy, home delivered). While your problem is specific to you, the same above general principle will likely apply.

    I find it useful to do a bit of swimming, especially breast stroke and backstroke (freestyle is a bit too much like climbing, ie pullling down). Another useful place is a weight lifting gym… useful exercises tend to be presses, triceps, rear deltoids on shoulders, the finger and hand extensors and similar….these things get pretty much no use in the gym. Do this just once a week, keep weights down, don’t eat more, and you will not gain weight.

    There is hope. I’ve had finger trouble and elbow trouble, and have successfully defeated both. Rest is NOT a long term cure….you need to ice/Ibuprofen/Voltaren-cream the thing until inflammation is gone (priority one) and then start exercising, gently (like no weights…you can do triceps extensions behind your head with a broomhandle!), crosstraining, etc.

    You may also want to reconsider doing lots of bouldering, it is the most injury prone part of climbing.

    Anyway, that’s what I have picked up in the last 15 years of climbing, works for me.

    Good luck.


    …er…another thing….I would not place too much faith in doctors who are not climbers. I’ve had many doctors say that I should stop climbing….10 years ago. Well here I am.

    You are the only only person who REALLY cares about you and there is lots of info out there so if you educate yourself, the future is bright!

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