Climbing Elbow Pain: How To Treat Climbers Elbow


The climbing elbow is one of the most common injuries in the world of rock climbing, and it is not a question of whether but when you’ll have to deal with it, no matter how well you pay attention to your body condition and warm-up drills. In this article, we’ll show you some tricks and tips to help you get through climbing elbow pain easier. 

What Causes Elbow Pain

Climbers elbow, also known as golfer’s elbow, most often is caused by simple tendon overuse. This means that your elbow is worn off by:

  • Forcing too hard during your climb. This happens when you feel you’re tired but keep going at all the cost.
  • Climbing too fast. If you try to climb as quickly as possible and focus solely on the speed, this way overusing your muscles and tendons, without letting them relax enough.
  • Climbing too often. For instance, if you go climbing every day for a few weeks. 
  • Spending too much time on the rocks. The climbing elbow may occur even if you go climbing two or three times per week, but you stay on the rock for far too long.
  • Resting too little. Although rock climbing has many health benefits, it also causes a lot of stress to your muscles and joints, and it takes some time for them to recover. If you take that time away from your body, elbow pain is one of the injuries you’ll probably have to deal with sooner rather than later.

Climbers elbow symptoms

These are some of the most usual symptoms caused by climbers elbow:

  • The localized pain point stretching along the outside of the forearm
  • The feel of discomfort when extending the wrist backward
  • The feel of discomfort when flexing the wrist forward

How Long It Takes To Recover

There is no specific time frame, but most of the time it takes between 6 weeks and 6 months to fully recover from it. It all depends on how early you’ve discovered your problem and how serious the damage is. Also, it depends on your actions. If you decide to ignore it and climb through pain, the smallest injury may get much worse and keep you away from the rocks for more than half of the year.

How To Treat Climbers Elbow

If you’ve been cleared by the doctor and allowed to start your therapy, here is what you can do to make it easier for you and speed the process of returning to the rock as much as you can. Mostly used is a so-called two-phase method.

Two-Phase Method

A two-phase method consists, as the name itself says, of two phases, where phase I serves to relieve the pain and reduce inflammation, while phase II has the purpose of rehabilitation and preventing it from recurring.

Phase I

Start by completely stopping all the climbing activities. Then, from day one, start with icing the elbow to lower the climbing elbow pain. Keep your elbow on ice for 20 minutes and repeat it from 3-6 times per day. This phase can last from two weeks, up to two months, in case of a more serious condition.

Phase II

Now the inflammation is gone along with the pain, it is time to start with rehabilitation with the help of easy stretching and strength exercises. You may feel a bit of pain, but avoid doing anything that can cause additional damage, like pull-ups or campus training. And before you start your training, spend some time warming up and use a heating pad to warm the elbow directly. 

After 3-4 weeks of rehabilitation training, you should be able to get back to some easy climbing routes, while it may take an additional month or even two to reach your previous level. Take it slow, and if you feel anything close to strong pain, cut back and stick to that routine for a few days. 

How Long Should You Use These Drills?

If you want to stay healthy and keep your elbow in a good shape, then you should do these drills as long as you plan to climb. Stretching exercises should be done daily, while the ones with the weights should be limited to three days per week.

Exercises And Drills

Extensors Stretch

Keep your arms 90% straight, cross the hands in front of your body with your palms joined and fingers interlocked. Maintain a bit of tension through both arms and pull using one hand to flex the other hand’s wrist until it starts to stretch along the outside of the forearm. Hold it for about 20 seconds, then pull using the other hand to stretch along the other arm. Repeat the sequence one more time. This exercise can be done everywhere and anytime, so you should do it every day. 

Finger & Wrist Flexors Stretch

Stand up and bring your arms together, so they are in front of your waist. Make your right arm straight and place the fingertips in your left arm’s palm. Your stretch arm should be placed so the palm is facing down and the thumb turned inward. Pull back on your fingertips with your left arm and hold it that way for about 20 seconds. Release your fingers, turn the hand so the palm faces outward, hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Repeat with the other arm, and finish up with a forearm flexor muscles self-massage.

Pronator Teres Exercise 

This drill is quite simple, but you’ll need a sledgehammer for it. Sit on a bench, place your forearm on your leg and hold the hammer parallel to the ground, with the inside of your fist facing up. Turn your hand up to raise the hammer into a vertical position, then, while counting to five, bring the hammer back to the starting position. Once you get it back, wait one second and start again. Repeat 15-20 times, then switch hands. Do 2 sets with each hand.


Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about climbing elbow pain.


Q: Can I climb with climbers elbow?


Most likely yes, but you shouldn’t because you’ll risk making your injury much worse and ending up having to skip climbing for maybe even more than 6 months. If acted on early, you may have to miss just a few weeks.

Q: How do you prevent climbing elbow?


The best way to prevent climbing elbow is to warm it up regularly during your regular warm-ups, without skipping a drill. Also, it is always recommended to have a use heating pad on your elbows, besides stretching twice a daily and strengthening exercises.

Q: How do you treat tendonitis in the elbow?


Here are some general guidelines to help you fight elbow tendonitis: 

  • Icing the elbow. 
  • Placing an elbow strap to prevent further damage.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, if allowed by the doctor.
  • Stretching and motion exercises.
  • Physical therapy.

Q: How do you fix medial elbow pain?


Here is how to treat medial elbow pain:

  • Rest the arm as much as possible and avoid using it when possible.
  • Ice the elbow to remove pain, swelling, and inflammation.
  • Wear a brace on your elbow.
  • Stretch the elbow.

Q: What causes climbers elbow?


Climber’s elbow is caused by excessive usage of the elbow tendons without letting them rest and recover enough, and is one of the main injuries in tennis, golf, basically any activity that relies strongly on the usage of arms.

Q: What does climbers elbow feel like?


These are the three probably symptoms you’ll feel when you have to deal with climbers elbow:

  • The localized pain along the outside of the forearm
  • The discomfort when you try to actively extend the wrist backward
  • The feel of discomfort when you passively flex the wrist forward.

Globo Surf Overview

This article will help you fight the climber’s elbow, but if you don’t feel alright or something feels off, don’t hesitate to visit the doctor. If this doesn’t help, you may need to have it surgically repaired.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!