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Chronic inflammatory diseases and climbing
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By Kyle Jones
From Portland, OR
Mar 21, 2012

Hello all,

I've recently been referred to a rhuematologist for a likely case of Ankylosing Spondylitis. This chronic inflammatory disease normally affects the back/hips, but over the year and a half I have been climbing I have also battled with "climbers elbow" in both arms. It seems these issues are may be related related, and while I have gotten better at controlling the pain, (boat loads of antagonist exercises, stretching, and no bouldering), it is always present in some form.

It is pretty uncommon, but maybe someone has some experience with chronic inflammation and tendons. Does anyone else has AS, or something similar? How have you dealt with it?


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By djkyote
Mar 21, 2012

Try cutting out refined sugars, wheat (beer too) and maybe dairy. I also take an anti-inflammatory enzyme called wobenzye. Expensive, but it works. Good luck!

For elbows, I've had a lot success using a green Flexbar and following a consistent yoga program to correct imbalances in traps, shoulders, and elbows.


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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Mar 21, 2012
You stay away from mah pig!

Kyle Jones wrote:
Hello all, I've recently been referred to a rhuematologist for a likely case of Ankylosing Spondylitis. This chronic inflammatory disease normally affects the back/hips, but over the year and a half I have been climbing I have also battled with "climbers elbow" in both arms. It seems these issues are may be related related, and while I have gotten better at controlling the pain, (boat loads of antagonist exercises, stretching, and no bouldering), it is always present in some form. It is pretty uncommon, but maybe someone has some experience with chronic inflammation and tendons. Does anyone else has AS, or something similar? How have you dealt with it?


Holy shit, in the last two weeks, I've gone from thinking I was the only climber with AS, to seeing this video, and then reading your thread!



Anyway, yeah, I got diagnosed with it about 5 years ago. The diagnosis was actually brought on when I got a bout of iritis (as you probably know, a way common symptom of AS) in J-tree, I did not get it checked soon enough, and almost lost my eye from it.

A lot of things about the disease hinders climbing: I can't sleep on the ground as easily now without severe back pain, find myself constantly downing NSAIDs throughout climbing trips, and if I'm in the middle of a lower back flare-up, I can't even begin to climb. I have to warm up very gradually, and actually prefer to climb in areas with longer approaches, since they tend to get my back stretched out in the morning even before I get on that rock.

BUT, if I keep climbing regularly, it keeps my flexibility up, and the back pain down. The worst time of the day on climbing trips is morning, but after a good day on the rock, my back feels awesome. Even before I got diagnosed, I found out that straight-in splitter handcracks opened up my hips and sacro-illiac area better than any yoga or masseuse could. The last trip to a rheumatologist I had, he was very impressed that I could touch my toes, and basically told me to keep climbing. As you probably know, staying active and flexible is one of the best ways to keep your lower spine from fusing.

When were you diagnosed, and how old are you? At what stage are you with treatment? Just ibuprofen? Have you started on TNF alfa inhibitors yet?

Anyway, if you have any other questions, shoot me a PM. I'd be psyched to stay in touch with other climbers with AS, and keep tabs on how we deal with this bullshit over the years, hopefully keeping its worst symptoms at bay.


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By Rob Eison
From Denver, CO
Mar 21, 2012

I have a good friend in Cali, early 50's with AS for many years and he sent 5.13c this past season, his hardest climb yet. He's religious about stretching, properly warming up, and nearly immerses himself in ice at the end of the day. In the 8 years I've known him, I haven't seen his illness result in any significant setbacks. I agree that climbing should be beneficial as long as you pay attention to your body and have a good Rheumatologist monitoring your progress. Good Luck.


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By Phillip Morris
From Flavor Country
Mar 21, 2012
1234

I have had great success eliminating pain in both my elbows and knees by eliminating grains, legumes, and dairy from my diet.

You should go over to robbwolf.com and read the FAQ page on his website. If what he is saying makes any bit of sense to you then buy his book.

Wolf's book makes a very convincing argument that chronic inflammation and auto immune diseases are 100% attributable to the consumption of grains, legumes and dairy. Real eye opening stuff in my opinion, definitely worth checking out.

Good luck


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By Kyle Jones
From Portland, OR
Mar 21, 2012

I just got referred to a rheumatologist this week, though still not technically "diagnosed", I think. HLA-B27 test was positive, and I have the SI/back pain consistent with the disease, so I think it is a no-brainer.

I am 28, and I have had symptoms for going on 10 years now. I suspected AS for the past few years, but worry about possible insurance issues, (I was possibly going to be in between carriers), kept me from wanting to get it diagnosed. I have been pretty heavily into the ibuprofen for the past ~6 years, usually nightly, though I have cut that down over the past few months.


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By thomas ellis
From abq
Mar 21, 2012
Mint jullop

I have chronic inflammation due to lyme disease. I know it is different but diet is similar. I went to see a famous Tibetan doctor by the name of Dandan and aside from meds he gave was also a strict list of no nos. pork, certain legumes, wheat, and a list of fruit I would have to look up. Also he recommended cooked or fermented veggies. That was 9 years ago and I have had much success.
Good luck and try to avoid serious western meds as they all seem to come with a difficult string of side effects.
PS: don't be hesitant to seek out alternative medical advice was my experiential support here. Help sometimes comes from unlikely or unfamiliar sources


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By doligo
Apr 6, 2012
Jose Cuervo Fruitcups dirtbag style

I take turmeric to control inflammation from my old untreated wrist injury. I maxed out on my NSAIDs intake when I broke my shoulder and tore my labrum three years ago (I had to take 3200 mg daily for weeks), so when I sprained my wrist last summer I seeked something that won't mess up my GI tract. I read some other climber's testimonial to turmeric, so I gave it a try. I was sceptical at first, and his recommendation to dust the morning granola caused me gag (I had a tiny dusting that I had to cover up with honey or fruit preserve at first). I now take a spoonful of it daily with my granola/yogurt and can really tell the difference in the pain when I stop taking it. You can also buy capsules, but they're way more expensive than just buying the powder.


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By Jeff Chrisler
From Boulder, CO
Apr 6, 2012

doligo wrote:
I take turmeric to control inflammation from my old untreated wrist injury. I maxed out on my NSAIDs intake when I broke my shoulder and tore my labrum three years ago (I had to take 3200 mg daily for weeks), so when I sprained my wrist last summer I seeked something that won't mess up my GI tract. I read some other climber's testimonial to turmeric, so I gave it a try. I was sceptical at first, and his recommendation to dust the morning granola caused me gag (I had a tiny dusting that I had to cover up with honey or fruit preserve at first). I now take a spoonful of it daily with my granola/yogurt and can really tell the difference in the pain when I stop taking it. You can also buy capsules, but they're way more expensive than just buying the powder.


+1
I take some meds for high BP, and NSAIDs are a bad combo with those, so I started taking turmeric as well. Especially on hard climbing days, it's great to take that day afterward and the next day to reduce soreness due to inflammation. Another good thing to add into the diet is ginger which also a huge anti inflammatory. I choose to eat a chunk of it or add it to my juicer.


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By Yonathan Lewit
Sep 11, 2012

I've been dealing with chronic pain in my hips and lower back for a few years now. Visited a sports medicine doctor a few years back and came up positive for HLA-B27 also. After he prescribed me steroids, I opted to go to physical therapy instead. They thought I was suffering from piriformis syndrome which I was relieved to hear. The PTs gave me a treatment of stretching along with hip strengthening which I do pretty regularly and it helps but I've never been able to get rid of the inflammation. I do seem to do feel best after a weekend of climbing, but the pain usually comes back after a few days. Most nights I have to take ibuprofen to sleep the whole night through. If I don't an NSAID I can expect to wake up at 4am with an aching lower back. This all started when I was 23 and seems to have gotten worse. Recently, I pulled my groin which feels related to all this. I'm now 27 and am thinking it is time to go back to the MDs and see if I do after all have AS. Maybe a rheumatologist. Was happy to find this thread along with the Whitney Boland video. I guess I might try some of these diet suggestions too.

For the short term, I'm meant to go the red for my fall climbing trip in 10 days. My groin is at about 80% and my training has been limited because of it...but I think I will just lower my expectations and take NSAIDs. Hopefully will send a few classics still!


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By Kyle Jones
From Portland, OR
Sep 12, 2012

Yonathan, your reply reminded me of this thread, so I thought I would post an update.

After a visit to a rheumatologist, I was prescribed Enbrel (the same medication in the video.) While I've heard of mixed results for others, it has been nothing short of amazing for me. I am doing my first 5k this month, after not being able to run for almost 10 years. I have had to take ibuprofen before bed maybe once or twice in five months. I am not sure if it has made a difference with my "climbers elbow", as I have been doing a lot of exercises, etc, for it, but it certainly hasn't hurt; I have rarely had a recurrence since starting the meds.

Medication may not be for everyone, but in this case it has made a huge difference for me.


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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Sep 12, 2012
You stay away from mah pig!

great to see this thread back up again; it's awesome that the Embrel is working for you, Kyle. Yonathan, I have never heard for certain if different strain injuries are related to AS, but I definitely get them a lot, too, from my neck down to all parts of my back and hips. Hope that the groin doesn't hinder your trip to the RRG too much. Give me a shout if you wanna meet up there; I'm climbing at least a couple times a month there this fall.

As for my auto-immune status; I'm remaining lucky. Occasional back pain, but I've been climbing tons and better than I ever have before, still doing a lot of stretching, yoga, non-climbing cross training that seems to be keeping the bad flare-ups at bay and the flexibility up.

One final thing in this thread that I can't get into in too much detail, but there is a certain medicinal substance that a lot of climbers use, which recent research is showing to have a lot of anti-inflammatory properties. :)


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