Climbing: Shoulder Pain

Georgia Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow

In this article, we’ll explore why climbers often experience shoulder pain, common climbing shoulder injuries, their causes, and ways to treat and prevent shoulder pain. 

Ready to take charge of your shoulder health? Read on to learn how you can climb with confidence and comfort. If you’re seeking expert care, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow in Marietta and Atlanta, Georgia. Let’s get you back to enjoying your climbing adventures to the fullest!

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Why Does My Shoulder Hurt When I Climb?

Shoulder pain in climbers often stems from the repetitive stress placed on the shoulder joint during climbing. The shoulder joint is complex, involving the interaction of bones, muscles, and tendons. One common issue is strain on the rotator cuff—a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder. Climbing involves repetitive reaching, pulling, and hanging motions, which can strain these muscles over time.

Additionally, climbers may develop a muscle imbalance between the muscles in the upper arm and those in the shoulder. This can occur due to overuse of certain muscles while climbing, leading to weakness or tightness in other muscles. For instance, excessive use of the muscles in the upper arm without adequate strengthening of the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint can lead to imbalances, resulting in pain and discomfort.

What Are Some Common Climbing Shoulder Injuries?

Some shoulder injuries that are common with climbers could include the following:

  • Shoulder Impingement: Rotator cuff tendons become pinched between the upper arm bone and the shoulder blade, causing pain during climbing movements.
  • Weakness or Imbalance in Shoulder Blades: The instability in the shoulder complex due to weak or imbalanced muscles around the shoulder blades increases the risk of injury.
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries: Overuse or sudden movements can lead to strains or tears in the rotator cuff muscles, resulting in pain and limited motion.

What Are Some Common Causes of Climbing Shoulder Injuries?

Common causes of shoulder injuries in rock climbing include:

  • Overuse: Repeatedly performing strenuous movements like reaching, pulling, and hanging can strain the shoulder complex over time, leading to injuries.
  • Poor Technique: Incorrect climbing techniques, such as improper body positioning or excessive reliance on the arms instead of the legs, can put undue stress on the shoulders, increasing the risk of injury.
  • Muscle Imbalances: Insufficient strength or imbalances in the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint can lead to instability and vulnerability to injuries during climbing activities.
  • Sudden Movements: Quick and forceful movements, such as dynamic moves or falling unexpectedly, can strain the shoulder muscles and tendons, causing injuries.

How Can a Climber Treat and Prevent Shoulder Pain?

To treat shoulder pain from climbing injuries, climbers can:

  1. Rest: Take a break from climbing to allow the shoulder to heal and avoid aggravating the injury further.
  2. Ice and Heat Therapy: Apply ice packs to reduce inflammation and pain, followed by heat therapy to promote blood flow and relaxation of muscles.
  3. Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Perform gentle stretching exercises to improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint. Focus on exercises recommended by a physical therapist specifically for climbing injuries.
  4. Physical Therapy: Seek guidance from a physical therapist who specializes in climbing injuries. They can provide personalized treatment plans, including manual therapy techniques and targeted exercises to address shoulder pain.
  5. Modify Climbing Techniques: Adjust climbing techniques to reduce strain on the shoulders. Focus on using proper body positioning, engaging core muscles, and distributing weight evenly between the arms and legs.

By following these strategies, climbers can effectively manage shoulder pain and prevent future injuries while continuing to enjoy their climbing pursuits.

Take Charge of Your Shoulder Health Today!

Don’t let shoulder pain hold you back from pursuing your passion. Schedule an appointment with Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow today to receive expert care and get back on the road to pain-free climbing. Your shoulders will thank you for it. Contact our office in Atlanta or Marietta, Georgia today!

Medically reviewed by

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Plastic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon