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What I want every injured climber to know

Pain in your shoulder, elbow, wrist, or hand?

Probably one of the top questions I get when working with new clients is "how do I keep climbing and training while I recover from this?"


Initially, a short rest period can be beneficial after an injury. With minor sprains and strains, 1-2 weeks of relative rest helps de-load that tissue and allow the initial inflammation to pass so that you can move forward into the next phases of healing.

During the inflammatory phase, tissues are more sensitive, and it can be difficult to differentiate what hurts and what doesn't. It may seem like every movement is painful. But with time and rest on your side, it gets easier to identify painful movement patterns vs non-painful ones. This is really helpful in diagnosing the injury and then moving forward with the right rehab plan and progression.


After this period of relative rest, you can gradually re-introduce climbing. Slab climbing, which tends to promote more controlled movement and use of lower body than upper body, is a great option, whether at the gym or the crag. This also doesn't mean go immediately back to your pre-injury grades. I recommend climbing 2 or more grades below your previous level.

This difficulty should be well within your skill level so that you can:

-listen to how your body feels with certain moves, holds, and styles

-focus on improving or modifying movement patterns during your rehab

-avoid any pressure to "get the send" at the expense of overloading your healing body

I also recommend keeping climbing to 1-2 days/week to allow more time for healing and performing important rehab exercises. This is a time for recovery and preparation. Do things right, and your rehab timeline may be a few short weeks to a month or so. Continue to push and exceed your limits of healing, and you may end up with a nagging injury that lasts much longer. As a rehab professional, I generally err on the side of gradual progression for my clients, as I've seen many over eager athletes up the intensity too quickly the moment they start to feel normal again, only to end up re-injured.


"OK so I do my rehab exercises on alternating days from climbing, right?"

Many people underestimate the strain that climbing or rehab exercises put on healing tissue. In fact, they both should be occurring at a high enough intensity to bring on change and adaptation. Because of this, alternating climbing days and rehab days can actually leave you without enough rest time for recovery. I recommend performing strengthening exercises and climbing on the same day. Rehab exercises also make for a great climbing warmup, and then the following day serves as an opportunity for self assessment.

  1. Considering the holds and moves you made yesterday, how does your body feel?

  2. Are you feeling better, worse, or the same?

  3. Any lingering stiffness or soreness today?

  4. What contributed to the way you are feeling today?


It is important to recognize that all areas of your life will have an impact on your recovery. I consider these lifestyle factors like stacking the deck in your favor. Get these right.


Sleep is essential. Getting a recommended 7-9 hours of sleep contributes to your body's ability to recover and repair.


Trying to heal while in a calorie deficit is tough. Your body needs essential nutrients, especially protein and carbohydrates to repair damaged tissue. Strength training is a constant battle of breaking down and building up tissue. Make sure you have enough energy available for your body to do what it needs to do.


Stay well hydrated. Enough said.


We've all seen the physical manifestations of stress. Muscle spasms, knots, headaches, etc. High levels of stress are associated with inflammation, decreased immune function, and increased pain levels. Find effective ways to manage your stress, and recognize how other areas of your life may impact your training and recovery.


Climbing is a big part of your life. For some more than others. Climbing is community. Climbing is exercise. Climbing is self care. Climbing is FUN!

My goal is to get people back to the sport as quickly as possible. In this age of instant gratification, this is never as fast as we'd like it to be. But the good news is, the human body has an amazing capacity to heal, and you will get there with the right help and guidance.

We just have to set things up for success. Follow these tips, and you'll be well on your way.

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