We have heard people asking how rock climbing affects the shoulder. Our goal for today’s article is to explain how climbing rocks affects our shoulders. Does rock climbing hurt the shoulders? If you severely injure your shoulders or don’t take the right measurements to strengthen your shoulders to prevent injuries, rock climbing can be bad for your shoulders. In the course of their climbing “career,” many climbers suffer shoulder injuries, but they fail to take the proper preventive measures to prevent them in the first place or to promote their recovery afterward. Climbers are most likely to suffer the following types of shoulder injuries:
- Part-Dislocation (also known as Tendonitis Subluxation)
- Rotator cuff tear
- Shoulder impingement
As we have discussed, climbers can suffer from these injuries which can be very painful and annoying. However, there are ways to minimize the chances of them occurring and to help them recover.
Let’s look at each of the above injuries, what they are, how to prevent them, and how to help them heal.
Common shoulder injuries
It is quite common for climbers to suffer shoulder injuries if precautions aren’t taken. Check out these shoulder injuries, their symptoms, whether they have trouble fully healing, and how to prevent them.
What is tendonitis?
Usually, tendonitis occurs when tendons become severely inflamed due to overuse. Rheumatoid arthritis can also be caused by infection. In the shoulder there is a type of tendonitis called pitcher’s shoulder that is very common.
If severe, pitcher’s shoulder requires weeks or even months of physical therapy and rest. The problem is with the rotator cuff of the shoulder, a group of four muscles that help move the shoulder. As the tendons pass through the shoulder joint, they compress and gradually become inflamed and weak.
Using our shoulder muscles to pull up our body is obvious cause of tendonitis in climbing. Climbers can sometimes be injured by using upper body strength instead of proper technique. It might also be caused by overusing the tendons in your shoulder due to constant climbing.
Symptoms of tendonitis
- Tenderness in the shoulder
- accompanied by a small amount of swelling
- and a dull ache when moving the shoulder
- you may hear a snapping or clicking in the shoulder
If left untreated, can tendonitis become permanent?
You can suffer a lot in the future if you keep climbing on an injury that requires rest and rehabilitation such as this. When rest and rehabilitation are not effective, surgery is an option to fix the problem.
What can be done to prevent it?
Stretch your shoulders before and after any workout that uses them, such as climbing. Whether you use weights or calisthenics, strengthening your shoulders is important. By improving your technique, you reduce the need to overuse your muscles. Instead of using your muscles too much, focus on your technique when climbing up the wall.
A subluxation, or partial dislocation
What is subluxation?
Subluxations are partial or incomplete dislocations. In layman’s terms, this means that the ball joint in your shoulder partially popped out. It may then return to its original position on its own.Climbers commonly experience subluxation as a result of dynamic (dyno) moves or other maneuvers requiring a high level of concentration.
- Shoulder pain
- limits range of motion
- A large gap separates the acromion from the humeral head
- In the arm, you experience parasthesia (pins and needles).
Leaving a subluxation untreated can it cause permanent damage?
People who suffer from subluxation frequently will probably need surgery for it to heal properly. When you have had a subluxation injury but it hasn’t happened repeatedly, then you may need to immobilize the shoulder for a couple weeks.
What can be done to prevent it?
It is possible to prevent subluxation on a climbing wall by being less aggressive. A partial dislocation is more likely to occur if you force yourself up a wall by attacking holds.Rotator Cuff Tear
What is a rotator cuff tear?
Rotator cuffs include four muscles within the shoulder that are joined together by tendons. Here are the names of the muscles:
- Teres minor
On the upper arm, they cover the head of the humerus bone. A torn rotator cuff can result from a fall or aggressive shoulder movements, such as pulling too hard on a hold when climbing. Age and general wear and tear may also contribute to the condition.
Rotator cuff tears symptoms
- A pain in the front of the shoulder that extends down the side of the arm
- The pain may be felt when sleeping on the same side
- accompanied by arm weakness
- A snapping or clicking sensation may be felt
In the case of an untreated rotator cuff tear, is the condition permanent?
When proper rehabilitation methods are used, Rotator cuff tears heal in six months. The tear in your rotator cuff could get worse, reoccur, or won’t heal if left untreated or if you train with the injury still present. Surgical repair for significant tears of the rotator cuff may be necessary, but this is not always the case. Physiotherapy and/or various exercises are very necessary to help a rotator cuff heal fully.
What can be done to prevent it?
Rotator cuff tears can be prevented by strengthening the rotator cuff. Several excellent exercises can be done at home using a resistance band or small dumbbells while you are watching TV. Below are a few exercises that use dumbbells as the primary equipment; however, resistance bands can be substituted as well. You can perform these exercises:
- Rotation externally using dumbbells
- Internal rotation with dumbbells
- Abduction of the shoulders using dumbbells
- The forward raise is also known as a shoulder raise
What is a shoulder impingement?
The term swimmer’s shoulder refers to a shoulder impingement. The swimmer’s shoulder occurs when the rotator cuff rubs against the acromion – which is the outer edge of the shoulder blade. Bursas are natural spaces within your shoulder that occur between the rotator cuff and acromion. You may get caught inside the bursa when you lift your arm, since it becomes smaller when you lift your arm. Over time, the acromion rubs against and catches on your rotator cuff, causing irritation. The shoulder becomes impinged as a result.
Shoulder impingement symptoms
- Mild but persistent pain in the arm and shoulder
- Pain that is mainly felt on the front of the shoulder and on the side of the arm
- The pain that can get worse at night
- Shoulder and arm weakness
Can a shoulder impingement become permanently problematic if left untreated?
In the event that the impingement is left untreated and is still being trained on, the injury can deteriorate further or simply fail to heal. The importance of rest cannot be overstated. Do not perform any exercises while experiencing severe pain. Do not use a sling or anything similar to immobilize the arm, as this can make your shoulder stiff and cause your arm to become even weaker. You can reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain by applying an ice pack for around 15 minutes at a time. If the impingement becomes severe, surgery may be required. Physiotherapy is effective at treating shoulder impingement.
What can be done to prevent it?
Use proper posture in your daily activities to prevent shoulder impingements – no slouching, shoulder blades back, head up. Impingements can occur when you aren’t performing an activity correctly. You should use technique rather than extreme upper body strength when climbing.
The Best Way to Heal Shoulder Injuries
According to Dr. John M. Kirsch’s book Shoulder Pain: The Solution & Prevention, there’s a lot of evidence that points to one simple method which helps eradicate most shoulder problems. A former orthopaedic surgeon, Kirsch discovered that almost all shoulder ailments can be treated by performing a Brachial Hang – after studying his patients extensively. With a monkey grip on the bar, brachial hangs are performed with palms facing forward on the pull-up bar at shoulder width. Relax your shoulders completely. You can also do brachial hangs on a fingerboard. This should be done for at least 20 seconds at a time, or several minutes if possible.
By doing this throughout the day, not only will you see a reduction in shoulder pain, but you will also promote healing of your shoulder. Thus, you are letting the humerus bone slightly come out of its socket and giving it greater mobility. Kirsch stopped doing shoulder surgery after discovering this and now promotes this method as the number one way to fix shoulder problems. Here is an article on calf exercises for ice climbing.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Does climbing work your shoulders?
The pull muscles of the muscles of the chest (particularly the pectoral muscles), shoulders, and upper arms are vigorously worked by climbing, but much less so the opposing push muscles. Your lats are the major muscle that you use when climbing.
Why do shoulders hurt after climbing?
When the space between the bones in this passageway is reduced, impingement occurs. As a climber, you might repeatedly move your shoulder into a stressful or suboptimal position. A shoulder impingement occurs when the bones in the shoulder pinch down on the tendons.
What muscles does rock climbing Work?
To propel yourself upward, you’ll need the power of your glutes, as well as the strength of your leg muscles. In order to stay steady on the wall, rhomboids, trapezius, and lats work together.
Can you rock climb with a torn rotator cuff?
As an athlete returning to rock climbing, it is important to return slowly and progressively to prevent re-injury due to the rigorous demands of the rotator cuff. You may return to your previous level of climbing if you get a rotator cuff repair surgery.