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By David Hodges
From Parker, Colorado
Nov 23, 2010
Rubicon J Tree CA
So, I haven't climbed now in 3 months due to over training myself this past summer and developing golfer's elbow. I have seen a sports medicine doctor who recommended of course 3-6 months off, I'm coming up on 4 and I still have a slight pain when I push right on the bone. I'm just wondering about other's experiences I was thinking I was going to get started again in a couple of weeks at a very low level. I don't however want to push it too hard I've got too many trips planned in 2011. Can anyone out there who this has happened to share their experience, recovery time, and proactive steps to stop it from recurring? Any insight is greatly appreciated.

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By Jeremy H
Nov 23, 2010
Mine started hurting in December last year and I took off until mid summer. In the middle of the summer they still hurt so I decided to start climbing anyway. I started slow and just warmed up for a few weeks and my elbows started feeling better. Who knows, I never really has success with the exercises but I did them anyway. Don't climb two days in a row at first. I only climbed twice a week for a couple of weeks.

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By Eddie Brown
From Tempe, Arizona
Nov 23, 2010
Let it heal. Once it stops hurting for a few weeks, then ease back into climbing. Waiting it out sucks, but overuse injuries will keep reoccurring if you don't let them properly heal...


By the way, I'm not a doctor, just an obsessive climber/runner/cyclist that tends to get overuse injuries on a semi-regular basis.

Good Luck!

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By Erik W
From Bay Area, CA
Nov 23, 2010
North face of Ama Dablam - taken on approach to Kongma La.
Golfer's elbow = tennis elbow, right?

First time I got it bad was 5yrs ago and I had to take 8-10wks off. Then came back slowly and started wearing one of those tennis elbow braces. My elbow only flairs up when climbing in the gym, which I only do in the winters, so every November I go digging thru the gear bin to find that brace again. If I don't wear it for even one day in the gym I can feel the elbow hurting, but with it all is fine. Granted it affects your grip strength to a degree, and when you do get pumped it keeps that volume of blood from leaving your elbow as fast, but it keeps me climbing and that's more important to me.

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By David Hodges
From Parker, Colorado
Nov 23, 2010
Rubicon J Tree CA
Golfer's elbow = tennis elbow, right?quote>

Golfers elbow is on the inside of the elbow and from what I've read it's a true overuse injury and more difficult to treat than tennis elbow. Thank you guys above for the info. I don't want to push it as I've taken this much time off what's another month or so but I can't help but feel like I need to just get back doing some light climbing.

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By Brian Snider
From NorCal
Nov 23, 2010
Me
Strech,very slow warmup, and when it starts to hurt stop and take a day or two off. Mine kills after a hard work out. Solution: I don't work that hard. I get a lot of crap from my partner because I don't push the grade but if I hurts it's no fun. I've come to except the fact that I'll will only ever climb 5.10, oh well it's still fun and it don't hurt much. For those long hard days I bring ibuprofen for the day then vicodin and beer at night. Btw I'm not a doctor and this my be bad advice. Climbing is dangerous and it hurts.

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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Nov 23, 2010
I developed golfer's elbow a number of years ago. It got so bad I had a hard time picking up a glass of water. A guy at the gym told, 'Yeah, I had that too. Took about five years to go away.' I thought, 'yeah, right', but he was right. LOTS of lost climbing there.

The one thing I would do that I didn't know to do then was to brace them, even for everyday activities. Keep the inflammation down. Lots of ibuprofen or naproxen. When they were sore, even stretching aggravated them, so let your elbows be your guide. Be really conservative and give them a good chance to heal early. If not, you're potentially looking at a long road of healing and no climbing.

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By berl
From Oregon
Nov 23, 2010
A few years ago I had a few months of persistent inner elbow pain that would flare up during and after climbing and training sessions (3-4 times/week). Here are the two things I learned:

1. beware of stress and overuse from other sources, e.g. typing for hours on a laptop. Most of my problem was from bad ergonomics at the computer, but it only really showed up after climbing.

2. do regular workouts and stretching to help balance opposing muscle groups. I sometimes still have elbow tightness after hangboard workouts when I forget to do forearm/wrist rotating exercises (like rotating a dumbell side to side).

if I were in your shoes, I'd start now with any and all forearm/wrist exercises that don't directly strain that area before doing any pulling. And definitely back off of climbing/pullups/whatever if there's any pain.

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By Stefan Harms
Nov 23, 2010
I recently suffered through the same injury myself. The only thing that seems to help is rest, which is the hardest thing to do, as we all have the tendency to get back into climbing way to soon only to prolong the agony.I also noticed that once you had it you become prone to get re-injured. My suggestion: Once it's healed up,wear an elbow brace as an preventative measure. Certainly helped me. All the best !!

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By Mark Wyss
From Denver, CO
Nov 23, 2010
Mt. Baker
Just like David said, Golfer's elbow is on the inside, Tennis is on the outside. Medial epicondylitis and Lateral epicondylitis respectivly. My golfer's elbow was pretty bad from climbing and work, I got a couple of cortisone injections and they worked like a charm. If doc will give you those, you should be in good shape!

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By ErikaNW
Nov 23, 2010
Rapping off the Matron October, 2010
I would be wary of cortisone injections - they have mixed results (work great for some, not at all for others) - but they can weaken the tendons, especially if you have repeated injections. I would just be careful and fail more conservative approaches before trying this route. Just my 2 cents for what it's worth.

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By Lanky
From Portland, ME
Nov 24, 2010
David, here's some advice from Dave MacLeod, who definitely knows what's up (degree in exercise physiology I think, and a very strong climber).

On golfer's elbow specifically: onlineclimbingcoach.blogspot.c...

On injuries in general: onlineclimbingcoach.blogspot.c...

Browse around the rest of that blog. Excellent stuff.

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By David Hodges
From Parker, Colorado
Nov 24, 2010
Rubicon J Tree CA
Julian, thank you for these resources, very good.

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By phil wortmann
From Colorado Springs, Co.
Nov 24, 2010
Shredded by the Center Route.
I've had this before, and REST WILL NOT HELP! Get to rehabing it now. This injury happens alot in climbing because it is Isometric, which is hard on tendons/ligaments. Pick up the weights and slowly increase resistance. Don't go under ten reps for the first month. I suggest 6 days a week.

forearm curls
reverse forearm curls

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By tooTALLtim
From Boulder, CO
Nov 24, 2010
From the top of Pingora. You can see the descent from Wolf's Head in the background.
phil wortmann wrote:
reverse forearm curls


+1

I had it bad a few years ago, and took a few months off (and experienced a slow death). Waiting didn't work, but after a week of reverse curls, I was back at it!

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By Shaun Reed
From Boulder, CO
Nov 24, 2010
Work Life.
I agree. Reverse curls are key. Use very low weight, even though it doesn't seem like it's doing anything. I would say 15 pounds is pretty good and not more than 25. It is important to only do the reverse curls, so you have to use both hands to bring the weight back up again. Go really slow all the way through the range of your arm, and make sure to do both arms even if only one arm is sore.

I had extensive PT on my elbows. I've take time off just to have it come back again. I think it was really important to change the way I climbed. As others have said, warming up extremely slow and stretching is very important, and often neglected by most climbers.

Another huge thing for me was advice given to me by an old-school climber who also took off a lot of time just to have it come back again. He said to not hang completely straight-armed, especially on steeper walls. The problem is that when you hang straight-armed, you put all the weight on your tendons, which don't recover as fast as muscles. The best thing to do is keep your arm slightly bent at a small cost of taxing your muscles a bit. I notice the difference in my elbows if I don't do this. The hardest thing is breaking the habbit of keeping your arms straight.

Another major point: Stay hydrated before and during climbing. Tendons don't get much blood flow, so hydration is the best way to keep them lubricated.

Hope this helps. I'm not a doctor,either.

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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Nov 24, 2010
I changed the way I climb as well. I try to climb with an open hand grip as much as possible, whereas previously I crimped alot. That's seemed to make a big difference. Jim Holloway supposedly climbed exclusively with an open hand grip and he never had any problems with injuries.

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By JohnJ80302
From Boulder, Colorado
Nov 24, 2010
I have had bouts of medial epicondylitis (golfer's elbow), and there are a couple of things I did that helped, that I've not seen mentioned here yet. So, here goes:
1) make sure you're not sitting at a desk chair all day with your epicondyle tendon resting on the armrest. This cuts off circulation and only exacerbates the condition. Get an office chair with adjustable elbow rests, and lower them all the way.
2) make sure you're not sleeping on your side, on that elbow all night. I had to become a flat back sleeper, and when I did I quit waking up with sore elbows.
3) Get some deep tissue massage on your forearms. The median nerve that runs through that area gets bound up in fascia and muscle in climbers, and releasing that tension will help release tension on that tendon too. Painful work, but worth every penny.

Best of luck!

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By David Hodges
From Parker, Colorado
Nov 25, 2010
Rubicon J Tree CA
Thank you everyone, some really good advice here. Sounds like I may have taken too much time off, I started slow with some reverse wrist curls today and hopefully I will be back at it soon!

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By JohnJ80302
From Boulder, Colorado
Dec 30, 2010
Great article on this topic in Rock and Ice:

rockandice.com/articles/how-to...

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By RockinOut
From NY, NY
Dec 30, 2010
Gear
JohnJ80302 wrote:
Great article on this topic in Rock and Ice: rockandice.com/articles/how-to...


Really good article that actually explains the difference between golfers elbow and tennis elbow...john beat me to it when it came to posting that article. A friend of mine is a physical therapist he also recommends getting a towel rolling it up and squeezing it for 5 seconds at a time. Also doing reverse wrist curls with a can of soup or a beer.

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By Guy Keesee
From Moorpark, CA
Jan 3, 2011
Big Boulder, just a bit downhill from Temple of Kali. Alabama Hills, CA.
I cured myself with some simple changes and specific weight training.

#1 Change: NO CLIMBING ON LITTLE TINEY CRIMP EDGES IN THE GYM.

If your Middle finger/knuckle sticks up when you grab on, don't do it.


The workout that worked for me is a "Modified Frenchie"

Do a Arm Blaster workout, Triceps, Biceps, and your forearms, work them till failure.

Then, basically, you lie on your back, on a bench. Pick a light Bar, I use one with no weights on it. Hold your hands close together with the back of your hands on your forehead. Push the bar UP- IN TILL - your forearms are parallel to the floor - NOT ANY FURTHER - Keep your upper arm perpendicular to the floor. This is repeated over and over 20 times/set. The weight should be low so you never get pumped. While you are doing these, if you have blasted the big muscles, all the small muscles will get working and your elbows should feel warm.

I only bore folks with this advise because it worked for me.... That was 20 years ago, the advent of plastic and glue, I can still pull pretty hard with zero elbow pain. So try it.

Good luck

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By Kelly Cordes
Jan 3, 2011
The R&I article that JohnJ80302 linked seems excellent, and from an authoritative & knowledgeable source (Dr. J). In the program at bottom Dr. J writes, "We are interested in an eccentric load (a.k.a. negative contraction) only." That matches a really interesting NYTimes article awhile back (link below). I asked my PT (he's a climber and great therapist) about it, and he said, indeed, the eccentric work is well-established/proven stuff for treating tendonitis. The rubber bar gizmo in the article surely isn't anything magical in itself, but just a way to elicit that sort of eccentric work.

ell.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/...

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By Kevin Stricker
From Evergreen, CO
Jan 4, 2011
A good eccentric exercise is doing assisted wrist curls. Using a light weight dumbbell and assist your arm in the contraction(flexion) with your other hand. Then release and extend your fingers down and roll the dumbell out onto your fingertips without dropping the weight on your toes, then use your other hand to assist in another contraction.

Good form has you in a seated position with the back of your forearm on your leg. You want to isolate the forearm flexor and not use your bicep or shoulder.

BTW reverse wrist curls while a good exercise for climbers does nothing for medial Epicondylitis. It is a preventative exercise for tennis elbow ( i.e lateral Epicondylitis).

Do a search for Julian Saunders to get some good climbing specific advice for your condition.

Also I agree with the above that you will not fully rehabilitate golfers elbow without PT or moderate climbing. You should stay off your wall though until it no longer hurts when you are climbing. It is going to hurt after climbing for a while.

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By Jimothy
Jun 11, 2013
I had golfers elbow a while ago, because of climbing. I found through research that one of the best things you can do for golfers elbow it to wear a golf elbow brace . This alleviates pain by redistributing stress on the elbow as well as adding compression to draw blood to the area which decreases pain.

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By Bill Shubert
Jun 11, 2013
Me on Kamakaze 5.10a (Ozone)
I have had tendonitis on the tendons for both my brachioradialis muscles (first my right, then I was putting most of my weight on my left to avoid my right arm, and that ended up injuring my left). Terms like golfer's elbow could actually be caused by injuries in any of several tendons, including the brachioradialis. A good doctor or physical therapist will be able to figure out exactly which tendon is the problem.

At the worst times I was unable to brush my teeth because my elbow would hurt so bad. It has been about 3 years and there is still some pain, but only minimal now and only when my arms are at certain positions. I had to stop bouldering when the problem was at its peak, but I never stopped rock climbing at all. I had two physical therapists, one was good and the other was very good. They gave me exercises and stretches to do which I did every single day; I think I've blown off the exercises 5 times, tops, in the past 3 years. The deep tissue massages from the therapists seemed to help a lot also.

So I guess I'm going against what other people say. I had fairly severe golfer's elbow, but I didn't stop climbing. I only scaled it back (by cutting out bouldering). Maybe if I had completely stopped climbing for a year or so it would have healed faster, but I didn't want to stop completely. During treatment, I saw my therapist weekly and did exercises/stretches every day. I'm hoping that within the year I'll be pain-free...but I'll keep doing those stretches and exercises, tendonitis really sucks and left me in a lot of pain for a long time.

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