How to stay healthy in climbing

You are in three days In the final week of your climbing trip, repeatedly try a project with fingers or a twisting shoulder motion. When old swollen finger joints or shoulder pain come back, you shrug it off, and think, I just need a day off. True, but is this the only solution?

Our joints take a beating while climbing, which can erode the precious 2 to 4 mm cartilage that cushions between our bones. Although a certain amount of joint stress is key to maintaining healthy cartilage, too much—through impact, pressure, or shear forces—can lead to degenerative changes. Studies such as the Inflammation and Osteoarthritis study published in Therape Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease (2013) tell us that even if your joints are currently healthy, chronic inflammation is a major driver of degenerative changes in the future. So watch out for frequent bouts of chilblains (also known as synovitis), a common ailment among climbers! Although science works hard to find solutions to regenerate cartilage, our best defense is prevention, or changing the things we can do.

Here are the top tips for maintaining healthy joints:

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I. Manage your form

Study how you move. The way we move affects the pressure on our joints and tissues.

The so-called “overuse” can be caused not only by over-climbing, but by frequent poor form. For example, habitual climbing with the elbows outward can put extra stress on the elbow and shoulder joints. Weakness in certain muscles, inability to control movement (such as deceleration or downward movements), or lack of movement in one area may overcompensate in another, leading to excessive stress on joints and tissues at the end of the motor chain. One example is that a lack of hip movement, whether passive or active, forces you to move more of your lower back, putting pressure on the joints and discs there.


As you pull down, keep your elbows close to the wall/rock and in line with your torso – lower the chicken wings. Of course, most of us have little chicken wings when we’re pumped up or struggling. However, we can reduce the number of times it occurs. Think of overuse as a bank account. We can only make too many withdrawals until there is nothing left. On inclines, try to protect your wrists by keeping them straight versus bent. Try to keep the hips close to the wall, which may also help guide the line of pull on the wrist and fingers. Imagine placing your wrists and fingers on a piece of cloth if your buttocks stick out from the wall. A slow ball is difficult to catch because it is often easier to stay on when you pull it straight down. Poor body posture may result in a different grip position and/or a stronger grip to stay put, causing avoidable muscle and tendon strain.

Wrists and fingers

From a training standpoint, having better strength and endurance in our wrists and fingers may help prevent abnormal movements, such as chicken wings, especially when we are pumped or experiencing intrinsic movements. Getting stronger in an open hand grip can reduce our reliance on crimping, which saves the knuckles of the fingers from the pressure and shear forces that arise when using crimping—particularly when the foot flexes and we stress this position unexpectedly.

We can improve the strength of our fingers by hanging using open hand poses and half curls on the edges. Hanging on an incline can help develop strength in the wrist folds. Performing wrist curls is a good, isolated way to gain strength in the wrist folds, especially for novice climbers who do not have an extensive foundation in use. However, I would recommend that intermediate and experienced climbers focus more on boosting in situations specific to the sport’s requirements (for example, on suspension boards or inclines).
Osteoarthritis is the result of the wear and tear and repeated episodes of inflammation that can be caused by imperfect climbing techniques and injuries. The left joint shows a healthy cushion of cartilage between the bones, while the right joint has a severe deviation of the cartilage causing bone to bone contact.

Practice quality instead of quantity

Quality is always better than quantity. End your training or climbing session with enough energy to keep looking good. An increased load on the joint or tissues as well as abnormal movement create a perfect storm of injury. A simple example is trying out weighted pull-ups. Let’s say you’ve heard that these are good for increasing tensile strength. You are unaware that you already have bad form with body weight pulling exercises, and you put excessive pressure on your shoulders or elbows. Adding extra weight not only exacerbates that poor form but also increases the load with an already grueling movement. It can cause a sudden or gradual injury with repetition such as a dislocated shoulder.

Video by yourself

Take a video of yourself climbing. The “why” of the way you move may need further investigation. Is a bug like chicken wings or poor posture a learned (bad habit) strategy or the result of a lack of strength, control, or movement? Working with an experienced climbing coach, athletic performance coach, or physical therapist (hint, tip) can help.

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secondly. increased tissue movement

Myofascial strictures, which arise from adhesions in the network of connective tissue (fascia) that coat the underlying muscles, bones, blood vessels, and nerves, can contribute to joint pain in the fingers and hands. Addressing the limitations of movement from the neck to the hand is important to relieve tension throughout our upper extremities and reduce pressure on adjacent tissues such as tendons.

Massage, active release and trigger point

Deep tissue massage, active release, and trigger point release/dry needling are all good options. How often it is performed depends on the severity of the problem. If the problem is recent (eg, it occurred immediately after a training session) and was addressed early, one or two treatment sessions may suffice. Chronic cases may take more than one daily treatment or some time in each session for several days. Once the spot is no longer mushy and feels floppy rather than stiff, you can reduce the repetition, but re-evaluate weekly, especially after hard consecutive days of climbing/training. If you want to get a deep tissue massage, I recommend getting it a couple of days before the competition or trying to submit a project, as you may feel sore the next day. A springboard can be launched at any time, even during competition. Although you may feel some pain, the benefits should outweigh the negatives.

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Third. Benefit from nutrition

There is mounting evidence, according to a study presented in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2017), that consuming collagen-rich gelatin with the amino acids glycine, proline, and vitamin C, along with light exercise, can improve tendon health by significantly increasing collagen synthesis. There are products on the market, but you can also get these amino acids through natural sources like pork, fish, and chicken, to name a few. So far, I’m not familiar with plant sources for supplements.

Exercise is important to get nutrients to the site of the injury. Mild stress on tendons helps with nutrient absorption and naturally promotes collagen synthesis.

Based on the current literature, it is recommended to take collagen rich gelatin with vitamin C an hour before some light exercise for five or six minutes. For more details and custom plans, I recommend consulting with a knowledgeable sports nutrition expert. Although evidence for the use of this combination in rehabilitation is limited, research has been promising.

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Fourthly. delicate hydration

hydrate! Water is essential for joint health. Water is the most abundant component of our cartilage, making up 65 to 80 percent of its total weight. In addition to lubricating our joints, water helps us withstand heavy loads and nourishes the cells that develop, maintain and repair cartilage. The general recommendation is to drink 30 to 50 ounces daily; Athletes need more. Drink 16 ounces two hours before activity, and eight ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during activity.

Finally and again, your top priority should be to be aware of how you are moving. Find out why you’re moving in these less-than-ideal ways. Assess the movement of your tissues weekly, and moisturize enough – it’s the simplest of all, but essential.

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