Five Ways to Prevent Climbing Injuries

Climbing Injury (2)











The lives of climbers often set­tle into a famil­iar pat­tern: long stretch­es of good health, punc­tu­at­ed by peri­ods of injury. Healthy peri­ods coin­cide with a steady increase in abil­i­ty, while peri­ods of injury put a damper on your improve­ment. Ten­dini­tis, climber’s elbow, rota­tor cuff injuries — they fol­low us around like the con­stant in a math equa­tion. Is there any way to break out of this cycle?

Noth­ing will keep you entire­ly free from injury. Climb­ing is a stren­u­ous and poten­tial­ly dan­ger­ous sport — injury is inevitable. But fol­low­ing this advice will mit­i­gate the chances of hurt­ing yourself.

Take Rest Days
Overuse injuries are the most com­mon ail­ments that climbers face. This makes prop­er rest essen­tial. In your train­ing reg­i­men, rest days should be as impor­tant as train­ing days. Climb no more than five days per week.

The truth is that humans weren’t made to climb. Hang­ing on to a crimper puts an extra­or­di­nary amount of stress on your joints and ten­dons. Respect your body’s lim­i­ta­tions and give it a break once in a while.

Avoid Over GrippingAvoid Over Gripping
A com­mon mis­take of begin­ning climbers (and even many expe­ri­enced ones) is to over grip – using more force than is nec­es­sary to hang on to the rock. Over­grip­ping makes you more tired than you have to be – mean­ing if you under­grip, you’re able to climb longer – and it makes you more sus­cep­ti­ble to injury. The less ener­gy you use to grip your holds, the bet­ter off your del­i­cate fin­ger ten­dons and joints are.

Exper­i­ment with the strength of your grip. Try an easy route at the rock gym, one with big holds, and see how much force your hands need to exert in order to stay on the wall. You might be sur­prised how lit­tle it takes.

Use Skin Balm on Your Fingers
Believe it or not, flap­pers – that is, bad blis­ters that have opened up, expos­ing the glow­ing red, sub-der­mal tis­sue – can put you out of climb­ing com­mis­sion for up to a week, if it’s bad enough.

(Dirt­bag tip for flap­pers: Use super­glue on the flap­ping skin. Is this an opti­mal rem­e­dy? Will this make you heal faster? Prob­a­bly not. But if you absolute­ly need to con­tin­ue to climb – maybe you’re in the mid­dle of a big wall or you’re this close to send­ing a project – then super­glue is an ade­quate stopgap.)

If you’re climb­ing fre­quent­ly, con­sid­er using some­thing to repair the dam­aged skin of your hands. Many climb­ing retail­ers will sell balms that are mar­ket­ed toward climbers.

Cross Train
We get it. You climb every day. All you think about is climb­ing. You want to be the next world cham­pi­on, etc. But your mono­ma­nia may ham­string your climb­ing career. If climb­ing is your only form of exer­cise, then you may be set­ting your­self up for a repet­i­tive use injury.

Try lift­ing weights, run­ning, bik­ing and doing yoga in addi­tion to your climb­ing rou­tine. Cross train­ing will devel­op mus­cles that climb­ing neglects, ensur­ing that your mus­cles remain in prop­er bal­ance. Plus, it just makes you a more inter­est­ing human being, hav­ing inter­ests out­side of climbing.

Warm Up Before You ClimbWarm Up Before You Climb
Before hop­ping on a the dif­fi­cult project you’ve been work­ing on, make sure your joints and mus­cles are warm and loose. At the very least, this means gen­tly climb­ing a prob­lem well under your abil­i­ty lev­el. It also helps if you stretch out your fin­gers and shoulders.