Rock Climbing Injuries

 

 

 

It wasn't that long ago that rock climbing was considered a daunting, necessary component to transverse certain landscapes, not a fun and athletic sport. Today, however, rock climbing is a sport and recreational activity that’s enjoyed by people of all sexes and ages across the world. In fact, it has become such a popular sport and athletic activity that indoor artificial rock climbing walls have become commonplace in many fitness centers. In the U.S. alone, some 9 million people will participate in some style of rock climbing. Although considered a total body workout and a fun activity, the sport of rock climbing does carry a risk of injury.

What Causes Rock Climbing Injuries?

The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System found that around 40,282 rock climbers were treated by U.S. emergency departments over an 18-year period.

Whether boulder, face, or crack rock climbing, there is a great deal of mental and physical demand on the climber. Rock climbing combines elements like physical strength and endurance, physical and mental agility, balance, and coordination.

Climbing above one’s skill level, using improper equipment, wearing shoes that are too small, climbing in bad weather conditions, and over-training lead to a number of overuse and traumatic injuries. While most people associate rock climbing injuries with traumatic events like falling or slipping, around 20% to 25% of rock climbing injuries are actually the result of the cumulative stress rock climbing causes to the body. For example, a rock climbers hands can be the only tools used during the ascent. The body weight of the climber places a great deal of stress on not only the climber’s fingers, but also their wrists, elbows, and shoulders.

What Are Some Common Injuries?

Finger Sprains

A finger sprain occurs when one of the finger ligaments become abnormally stretched or torn. Rock climbing-related sprains are common to the fingers due to the repetitive and prolonged weight bearing actions associated with rock climbing. Certain rock climbing techniques, such as dynoing, also place the fingers at a greater risk of being trapped and bent awkwardly. As with all sprains, finger sprains are graded based on how badly the affected ligament was injured:

Grade I - abnormal stretching or microscopic tearing of a finger ligament. The finger may be sore or painful after prolonged use, but remains functioning.
Grade II - moderate tearing of a finger ligament. The finger may be bruised, swell, and lose some range of motion.
Grade III - significant to complete tearing of a finger ligament. The climber may feel a pop or snap in the affected finger and experience mild to significant pain, tenderness, swelling, bruising, and loss of function.

The flexor tendon pulleys, wrists, and ankles are other commonly sprained sites among rock climbers.

Medial Epcondylitis

Medial epicondylitis, which is also called golfer’s elbow, is among the most common elbow injuries suffered by rock climbers. Medial epicondylitis is an overuse injury that occurs around the medial epicondyle. This is the bony bump felt along the inside of the elbow. The muscles that flex the wrist are located along the palm-side of the forearm. These muscles attach to the common flexor tendon on the medical epicondyle. The wrist flexors pull on the common flexor tendon to flex the wrist, twist the forearm down, and grip with the hand during rock climbing. The repetition and tensile load from such actions can cause the wrist flexor muscles and common flexor tendon to become irritated and inflamed. If this continues, then the structures can degenerate on a cellular level, develop scar tissue, and thicken. The main symptom of medial epicondylitis is local tenderness and pain along the inside of the elbow. Additionally, the pain may radiate down the forearm and into the wrist, the elbow may feel stiff or weak, and grip on the affected side may be weak.

Lateral epicondylitis, which is also called tennis elbow, is another elbow injury. It’s similar to medial epicondylitis, but occurs along the outside of the elbow.

Rotator Cuff Strain

The rotator cuff is a musculotendinous unit consisting of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor muscles and their tendons. The cuff is essential to keep the shoulder joint stable and mobile. The repetitive overhead motions involved in climbing are most often responsible for rotator cuff injuries. However, the cuff may also be injured from a direct blow to the shoulder, such as from a climber falling or loose debris falling on a climber.

A rotator cuff strain occurs when one of the rotator cuff muscles or tendons become abnormally stretched or torn. Rotator cuff strains are graded based on the degree of stretching or tearing:

Grade I - abnormal stretching or microscopic tearing of the rotator cuff fibers. The shoulder joint remains stable and maintains its full range of motion. Mild shoulder swelling and pain may be present.

Grade II - moderate tearing of the rotator cuff fibers. There may be some joint instability, range of motion limitations, swelling, pain, heat, and bruising.

Grade III - significant to complete tearing of the rotator cuff fibers. This grade is usually accompanied by significant to complete joint instability and immobility and swelling, pain, heat, and bruising.

Of course, these are just a few of the many injuries that rock climbers face. Other injuries common to the sport include: fractures, contusions, abrasions, lacerations, concussions, back injuries, bursitis, tendinitis, dislocations, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Acute Sinew Liniment

Acute Stage Treatment: Rub on the injured area when swelling and/or inflammation are present.

Quickly relieves pain, reduces swelling and inflammation, and breaks up clotted blood and stagnant fluids in the injured area. Stimulates circulation of blood and fluids to help cells quickly repair damaged tissues, providing rapid pain relief and faster healing. Sinew Herbal Ice can be used in-between applications.
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Chronic Sinew Liniment

Chronic Stage Treatment: Rub on the injured area when swelling and inflammation are gone, but you still feel pain, stiffness, weakness or sensitivity in cold and damp weather.

Strongly stimulates circulation to damaged tissues and promotes the healing of overstretched tendons, ligaments and muscles, thereby quickly relieving pain, stiffness and weakness. Sinew Injury Poultice, Sinew Relaxing Soak, and the Sinew Warming Soak can be used in-between applications.
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Sinew Herbal Ice

Acute Stage Treatment: Apply on the injured area when swelling and/or inflammation are present.

This first-aid ice alternative poultice (balm) is used in place of ice to significantly speed up the recovery and healing process. Reduces redness, swelling, and inflammation while dispersing accumulated blood and fluids to help restore normal circulation to the injured area. It reduces the swelling and inflammation more effectively than ice, allowing you to more quickly regain normal range of motion. Acute Sinew Liniment can be used in-between applications.
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Sinew Injury Poultice

Chronic Stage Treatment: Apply on the injured area when swelling and inflammation are gone, but you still feel pain, stiffness, weakness or sensitivity in cold and damp weather.

This poultice (balm) is particularly useful if your injured area is more painful in cold and damp weather. It significantly stimulates circulation to damaged tissues and further promotes the healing of overstretched tendons, ligaments and muscles. Chronic Sinew Liniment, Sinew Relaxing Soak and the Sinew Warming Soak can be used in-between applications.
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Sinew Relaxing Soak

Chronic Stage Treatment: Used to soak the injured area when swelling and inflammation are gone, but you still feel pain, stiffness, weakness or sensitivity in cold and damp weather. If the injured area is too large or in an area that can’t be submerged in a pot of water, you can also saturate a towel in the liquid and apply it to the injured area.

This soak is particularly useful if you feel restricted mobility in your injured area. It is used to relax muscles, tendons and ligaments that are in spasm to reduce pain and stiffness and improve range of motion. Chronic Sinew Liniment, Sinew Injury Poultice and the Sinew Warming Soak can be used in-between applications.
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Sinew Sports Massage Oil

This specially formulated massage oil is recommended for use before and after exercise, sports and strenuous activity. It penetrates deep into muscle layers to warm and stimulate muscles, increase circulation and relieve tightness, hence improving your performance and helping to prevent injury.
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Sinew Warming Soak

Chronic Stage Treatment: Used to soak the injured area when swelling and inflammation are gone, but you still feel pain, stiffness, weakness or sensitivity in cold and damp weather. If the injured area is too large or in an area that can’t be submerged in a pot of water, you can also saturate a towel in the liquid and apply it to the injured area.

This soak is particularly useful if your injured area is more painful and sensitive to cold or hurts more in cold weather. It is used to bring warmth into the injured area to drive coldness out of damaged tissues and increase local circulation, thereby relieving pain and stiffness in cold weather. Chronic Sinew Liniment, Sinew Injury Poultice and the Sinew Relaxing Soak can be used in-between applications.
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Our price: $23.95
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