You don't need to be a climber to suffer from climber's elbow. It's probably more common than you think!
Climber’s Elbow (medial epicondylitis apophysitis) is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the tendons that connect the elbow to the forearm. It occurs around the bony bump on the inner side of your elbow. The pain may also be felt into the forearm and wrist.
Climber’s Elbow will usually develop as a result of overuse to the muscles in the forearm that enable rotation of the arm, flexion of the wrist, and to grip with the hand. By repeatedly effecting the same arm movement (typically associated with climbing), considerable stress is placed on the related muscles, tendons, and joints. This over time can cause injury from tiny tears in the tendons.
Squeezing a ball as shown is a simple exercise that may provide some relief
What Are the Symptoms of Climber’s Elbow?
In most cases, the pain develops slowly and gradually over weeks and months in the elbow area. It is less common for the symptoms to occur suddenly.
The client may feel stiffness in the elbow and it may be painful to make a fist. Pain and tenderness will be felt on the inner side of the elbow and sometimes the forearm too. Some will also experience numbness and tingling, often into the 4th and 5th fingers. The hand and wrist may feel weaker too.
The pain can be anything from mild discomfort to severe, and it will commonly affect sleep. It is noticeable that the pain will increase when forcibly trying to stabilize or move the wrist.
In most cases, the pain will feel worse when:• shaking hands
• using tools
• gripping objects e.g. cutlery, pen, computer mouse
• fully extending your arm
• turning a door knob
Who Is Prone to Climber’s Elbow?
Climber’s Elbow affects around 1-3 percent of the general population.
Studies have shown that pain on the medial epicondyle (Climber’s Elbow) is about twice as common in men than women, and that sufferers tend to be between the ages of 35 and 50.
Older people tend to be more prone due to the continuous repetitive movements over time leading to wear and tear of the tendons.
It's not just climbers who suffer from this condition. Anyone who participates in activities that require repetitive and vigorous use of the forearm muscle, especially while gripping something, are more susceptible. We often see this condition develop in cooks, gardeners, assembly-line workers, and people who play sports such as baseball and football.
Flexor Stretch can be useful for Climber's Elbow
Differential Diagnosis - What Else Could It Be?
Here is a list of other conditions which can mimic a Climber’s Elbow:• Trauma (fracture)
• Problems with the radial head of the radius bone at the elbow joint
• Problems with the discs in the neck C6/7 neuropathy (cervical disc)
• Dysfunction to the triangular articular cartilage disc at the wrist
• Osteoarthritis of the inner side of the elbow joint
• Ulnar collateral ligament injury
• Cubital tunnel syndrome (ulnar nerve compression syndrome)
• Guvon’s canal syndrome (ulnar nerve compression syndrome)
• Golfer’s Elbow
Exercising the Flexor Muscles - using a light weight (or can of food) - to aid rehabilitation and possibly help dissipate trigger points as part of some treatment protocols.
Trigger Point Therapy
There are well established trigger point treatment protocols that can be very effective for most cases. Generally when treating climber's elbow, we look for trigger points in pronator teres, flexors, palmaris longus, and the triceps (medial head). For best results, these trigger points are treated with compression techniques in combination with strengthening and stretching exercises. Your therapist may also advise on certain required lifestyle changes.
This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell.
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