How To Prevent Hand and Wrist Injures When Rock Climbing

I am a chiropractor and rock climbing is something I’ve always wanted to try. Unfortunately, living in Florida doesn’t give me many options other than an indoor gym. So I headed down to a local indoor climbing gym. As I began to don my climbing harness my heart began pounding and my hands began to sweat. Then the carabiner was clicked to my harness and the rope tightened. It was time to climb.

I could hear my kids down below cheering me on with words of encouragement: „Your only 25% of the way there, It’s easy, I climbed right up it, Don’t look down“. It felt like I had been climbing for several minutes although I’m sure only seconds had past. My forearms were already burning. My fingers were hurting from the grip. Every muscle in my body was tense. I paused. Took a deep breath and gave myself some encouraging words „Don’t stop, Take your time, It’ll be great!“ My experience soon ended as I lunged for a climbing hold above my head extending to the right. Instantly the belay rope pulled tight cinching my harness. I heard a voice shout out below „Relax, lean back, kick off the wall, I got you“. I only made it about half way up but, was psyched and determined to go farther next time. My son went next and maneuvered himself right to the top like a little show off.

So what gave me the idea to climb. I am a hand and foot chiropractor and several weeks prior I began treatment on a patient who injured her wrist from climbing. As I mentioned I wanted to give rock climbing a try so the next free weekend I gave it a go.

Rock climbing has become an increasingly popular sport with indoor climbing gyms popping up everywhere. Although a small percentage of my patient population with wrist injuries were actually injured from climbing I have seen several patients since my first climbing experience described above which was several years ago.

The sport is very demanding providing a great strengthening and cardiovascular workout. Overall a safe sport but injuries do occur typically from falls or overuse injuries. The data in the literature was varied with exact percentages although it’s safe to say that less than 20 percent were from falls and about 80 percent from overuse. The upper extremities (arms) had a much higher percentage of overuse injuries than the lower extremity (legs). The fingers make up the highest percentage of injuries at 40 percent of total injuries. The shoulder accounts for 16 percent, elbows 12 percent, knees 5 percent, low back 5 percent and wrists 4 percent. (1) Other data notes that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is very common in climbers. As high as 25 percent of climbers. (2)

These injuries typically cause damage to the tendons, ligaments, joint capsules, muscles and on rare occasions fractures of the bones. The most common injury is climbers finger which is causes by damage to the flexor tendon pulley.(2) The crimp grip is the culprit. This is when the grip consists of flexion of almost 90 degrees of the middle finger placing a tremendous amount of force load on the tendon.

So how do you prevent injuries. One of the most important things to do is warm up. Not only the large muscle groups but, especially the fingers, hands and wrists. Open and close your hands for about a minute. Next spread your fingers open and closed for about a minute. Then extend arms out in front of you shoulder width with the palms up. Flip the hands palm side down then back to palm side up. Repeat for 30 seconds. This warms up the elbows and shoulders as well. Next place the palms of your hands together in the praying position about mid chest. Elbows extending out to your side. Pull the hands down until your wrists are about 90 degrees in relation to your forearm. Hold for 15 seconds then relax repeating about 5 times.

Also make sure you know your knots and climb with someone experienced in belaying. Include strength training to target your forearm and hand muscles. This can be done by taking a 12 inch round stick. Drill a hole in it and slip a 18 inch rope through it. Next tie a large knot on one end of the rope so it will not slip back through the hole. The other end of the rope tie a 1-2 pound weight. The amount of the weight will be adjusted as strength increases. Next grip the ends of the stick with both hands and hold out in front. Begin to roll the rope around the stick by twisting the wrists until the weight is rolled all the way up. Then back the weight down by twisting the stick in the opposite direction. Repeat 5 times. The fingers may be strengthened using a simple exercise grip.

Last avoid over reaching, pushing yourself too hard, use good judgment and most important know your limitations. Climbing can be a fun safe sport if you follow these steps. If you do develop a hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder injury see a chiropractor who has specialized training with the hands and wrist. Have a great and safe time climbing.


1) Doran, D. A.; Reay, M. (2000). „Injuries and associated training and performance characteristics in recreational rock climbers„. The Science of Rock Climbing and Mountaineering (A collection of scientific articles). Human Kinetics Publishing.

2). Preston, Dayton. „Rock Climbing Reaching New Heights“. Hughston health alert. Retrieved 11 January 2011.

Immobilienmakler Heidelberg

Makler Heidelberg

Source by Stephen H Canuel

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