By Becca Wezensky, PT, DPT, OCS
Many climbers have experienced pain at either the medial (climber’s) or lateral (tennis) elbow at some point during training or peak season. Any quick google search for these conditions will bring up wrist flexion and extension strengthening and stretching; however, these exercises fail to treat possible irritation to the nerves passing through the arm on their way to our fingers.
Without making things too complicated, our nerves are the pathway for signals to be sent back and forth between the brain and the rest of our body. Nerve tissue is highly sensitive to being overly stretched or entrapped in our muscle and fascial tissues. Symptoms of nerve irritation may include dull, aching pain, numbness/tingling, sharp zings along the nerve’s path, or even weakness with gripping.
If you have been struggling with elbow pain on the wall, the first step is to reduce your overall climbing volume (often these injuries stem from over-training i.e. increasing climbing time in a single session or volume over the week). Adding in forearm strengthening 2-3 days a week and
daily stretching should help reduce symptoms further.
To address possible nerve irritation, the final step is to add in exercises called nerve glides 1-2 times daily. Nerve glides are meant to return normal, unrestricted movement of the nerves through our muscle tissue. Nerve glides should not be painful, but should generate a light
stretching sensation at the end of the movement.
Median Nerve Glides
If you experience medial elbow pain, try adding in median nerve glides.
Radial Nerve Glides
If your pain is in the lateral elbow or wrist extensor group, give radial nerve glides a try.
If you are still experiencing pain or irritation, please reach out to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist.