Elbow Injury – The long road back to climbing

29 Apr

It has litterally been over 4 1/2 years since I felt I have been able to go rockclimbing properly.  In that time I have felt unmotivated, depressed, a bit angry and feeling like I was lacking "something".  Friends would ask me to go climbing and my constant refusals led them to think that I was no longer interested, they stopped asking.

The truth was that it hurt to climb, it hurt alot. 

Golfers Elbow – Medial Epicondylitis

It started slowly, an irriating ache in my elbows, on the inside.  It would go away after rest and stretching – I kept climbing.  Friends would tell me of the elbow pain that they had and how they "climbed through it".  Bascially I ignored what was going on and kept climbing.  Of course climbing on small holds and jamming my hands into cracks was not the best options.

Eventually I had to accept that I couldn't keep climbing, that the pain wasn't going away and that I needed some help – the prognosis was not good. 

Basically – STOP CLIMBING and get into rehab via physio.  I was also searching out all the miracle treatments, reading up on articles about quaterzone injections, blood infusions etc etc.  None of these things offered long term solutions and after a good 2 1/2 years of rest and recovery my arms elbows started to once again feel good.

Surely now I could go do some serious climbing again?  The smallest twinge in my elbows told me no, more rest was needed.  This rest and active recovery (see attached PDF below) also included not doing other activites (such as mountain biking or heavy digging ) that used the forearm muscles and or focused repetitive strain movements on the elbow joint (mountain biking is the exact worse thing to do for this injury).

More rehab and time out from climbing (hey I got to do ALOT of paragliding) and I started to feel good, the pain was going away and I was back to climbing resonably well, but not for long.  Whilst I was climbing ok I had to try and limit the overuse of crimping and hard steep climbing (not easy to do in Wanaka) – I could still climb easy grades which was essential as I was still actively guiding and working in the mountains.  I went to Manaslu (8156m) in 2011 and during my summit push I pulled over 1500m of fixed line out of a hard windslab that had buried our ropes.  This involved putting a jumar to the snow and then heaving upwards – repeat at least 1500 times or more.  As I am right handed I tended to put most of the emphasis on my right arm.

A day few days after a successful summit and returning to below 3500m my right arm was locked, the pain was terrible.  I had perhaps 10% mobility of the arm.

On return to NZ the diagnosis of a 6mm partially torn tendon was not really the result I was hoping for.  What ensued was a battle with ACC (I was eventually told I had a degenerative injury … ) a full season off guiding and climbing as well as general immobility as most vigorous movements, running and at times simply walking (swinging arms hurt like hell).

I started to see small improvements and a eventual return of full mobility of my elbow.  Re-strengthening the elbow took quite some time as well as reconditioning my body to climbing.

A slow measured approach, rebuilding the climbing grade pyramid has been going on now for the last 12 months.

Loads of 15's – 17's  then maybe an 18 or 19 (on sport routes) lead occasionally to doing some 20 and 21's.  The paranoia of using small crimpy holds and over using my forearms is always present – basically I do not let myself get pumped AT ALL if I can help it.

At the presdent time it has finally culminated in being at ARAPILES now for over 3 weeks, getting back to climbing routes I first did 0ver 10 years ago without pain, rebuilding the endurance and confidence to place natural pro on increasingly steepening routes and not having any pain (oh and trying to have rest days)

So far it's been working but I am still very very paranoid about my elbows.  My advice to anybody that has anyform of elbow pain (Tennis or golfers ) is to not ignore it as I did, instead take immediate steps to get into re-hab and to reduce your climbing otherwise you may just end up sitting on the couch for longer than you like.

One exercise that I have used for a long time for golfers elbow is eccentric stengthing and lengthing using a flexi-therabar.  See the video below.  As read the link to the PDF below and consider contacting Doctor Juilan Sanders (again see link below)

 

PDF DOCUMENT Elbow rehab – Dr Julian Saunders
http://www.drjuliansaunders.com/resources/feature_articles/dodgy_elbows/

 

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