A Physiotherapists Guide To Common Climbing Injuries

James Walker
May 31, 2022

Three of the most common climbing injuries

Finger pulley tear

Each finger contains tendons which are held in place by 5 pulleys. These pulleys prevent the tendon moving away (bowstringing) from the bone during activities involving the hands.

Climbing can put large amount of strain through these pulleys. An acute injury that can occur when pulling up on a climbing hold. An audible pop can sometimes be heard, and pain is usually felt immediately at the base of one of your fingers. The most common type of pulley injury is an A2 injury of the middle or ring finger.

Golfers/Tennis elbow

Often a condition that develops slowly. Pain can be felt on the inside or outside of the elbow and can be commonly caused by muscle imbalance or incorrect climbing technique.

Tennis elbow

The tendon that attaches to the bone becomes tendinopathic resulting in pain on gripping type activities. Common treatments such as rest and ice don’t tend to results in any improvement. Specific ‘loading’ exercises are the best way to treat this type if issue.

Shoulder impingement

Can occur acutely or develop slowly. Pain is felt at the front of the shoulder and often occurs on movements which involve lifting the arm out to the side. Common in climbers due to the repetitive nature of certain movements in climbing.

Shoulder impingement

Stiffness in the upper back and shoulder joint as well as lack of sufficient strength of the rotator cuff muscles are often caused of shoulder impingement.  

Tips for climbing injury free

Work on your flexibility

Not only will this improve your climbing ability it will decrease your chances of pulls and strains. 

Strengthen your opposition (antagonistic) muscles

Exercises such as press ups and shoulder press will help to strengthen your pushing muscles so not to develop imbalances with your pulling muscles.

Warm up!

A common advice in any sport, but especially important in climbing due to the high levels of strain going through your fingers, elbows and shoulders. 

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