How to Survive a Climbing Injury

climbing injuries

Face it—your finger doesn’t quite feel right. When you climb, it might feel fine but as soon as the session ends, it starts to ache. Not like after good session … the bad kind of ache when you know you probably should have stopped before the session even began.

Injuries suck.

And, because you had the inkling that you might be injured, you already read all of the blogs that that said climbers are some of the worst at listening to their bodies when it comes to injury.

You want to survive your injury and come back climbing stronger? Here’s what you have to do.

1. Sit down; literally

If that finger feels tweaky, aches down into the joint or tendon … STOP CLIMBING. You have to actually stop. Not after this session or last lap. Now.

If you’re dealing with a common injury like a pulley ligament or tendon, the body is able to best repair itself within the first 5-7 days. If you miss this window because you flat out ignore it or are out of touch with your body, you’re obviously not up shit’s creek, but recovery may take longer.

2. Wait

Lots of climbers try to justify taking two days off from a tweaked finger as, “I heard you are supposed to climb on it to get the blood moving … it helps with healing.” No—sit back down.

Yes, mechanical stress does help the healing process at a certain point. If you go back to your regular activity, sometimes even a “mild version,”  you could easily re-injure yourself and be dealing with a chronic problem. You should not use this excuse until you are completely pain-free for a few days. For many injuries, this takes from 2-4 weeks (some even more).

3. Process and plan

Let’s deal with the emotions of being injured. No, you’re not going to die. It might feel like it, but if you take care of yourself, you are investing in your longterm climbing. Passing the time is important, so make a plan.

Research shows that people recover faster and better if they stay positive and take control of their injury. So, do your research. You can approach this a few ways …

Use this as a time for strength or cross training

Try something else. Start running or ask the front desk where the weight room is in your gym. Research some activities that will strengthen often ignored muscles and bring you back from your injury in a new fitness bracket.

Supplement

Consider taking a supplement to support healing (I like Ligaplex and Terry Naturally’s Ligament and Tendon Support). And, research the best way to care for yourself. Should you tape or sprint your injury? Should you ice? What other things can you control to help promote healing?

Try a new sport

Especially for those of us in seasonal places, a winter injury may be the perfect time to explore skiing. There is a body of research that supports the notion that multi-sport athletes have better body awareness and control.

Give back

If you can handle it, head out to the crag and do some maintenance. Clean up trails, and clean off boulders or routes. Work with local climbing organizations to see what they have planned and how you can help.

4. When it’s time to climb again … be humble

Start SLOW. Yes, you’re going to be so excited at this point because it’s possibly been three months. But the reality is that you are not going to start where you left off, and if you try, you might be right back on the couch with another injury.

Learn from your experience and be kind to yourself. Keep up with your injury-prevention protocols and strength training.

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