A Desperate Message to Those Climbing with Elbow Pain

Training and Injury Prevention

By Paul Norris (Vertical Junkie, Climbing Physiotherapist)

I am going to start and finish this article with one simple takeaway.

Elbow Pain Causes a Loss in Grip Strength.

If you are a serious climber and are happy with having reduced grip strength.  Then I am a physio who is happy for you to not read this article and keep pushing through your campus board workout!

Recently we have been diving into the physiology of tendons and how load can affect tendons on Vertical Junkie.

We discussed how elbow pain is not an inflammatory condition but more likely due to overloaded and pathological tendons. 

This overload can come from a new training stimulus or an additional volume of training or climbing. 

It is usually not something which presents immediately like a sprain or strain and unfortunately is not something which climbers pay immediate attention too.

We are all guilty of pushing through a bit of tendon discomfort in our training cycles.

Remember though, Elbow pain causes a LOSS in grip strength.  

Want Catastrophic Failure of your Connective Tissue? No? Keep Reading!

Our median nerve passes through the pronator teres – which is a huge contributor to medial tendinopathy in climbers – impacting this crucial nerves ability to fire our strong finger flexors.

Ongoing pain cause the nervous system to learn to not to fire as effectively to mitigate self-harm (I mean come on we are climbers, self-harms half the fun right!)

Changes in tendon physiology reduce the transfer of force from the muscles to the bones.

Global muscle groups are asked to over recruit to stabilise and oppose function which affects our kinetic chain loading patterns.

Not to mention, ending up with a catastrophic tissue failure due to years of flirting with elbow pain is a great way to lose a season or two of climbing.

Simply put, pushing your training into worsening elbow pain is basically training to get weaker. 

The Good News!  A lot of trainers, physios and coaches know a lot about how to manage elbow pain for climbers.  Reach out and have a chat.  It’s that simple. 

If that isn’t enough of an incentive, remember, Elbow Pain Causes a Loss in Grip Strength!

Written by Physio Paul (www.verticaljunkie.com)

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