4 min read. Written by Shirouz Elango
Nothing ruins an epic bouldering or climbing session like sudden shoulder injuries.
According to statistics, up to 67% of climbers sustain climbing-related injuries, with the majority of the cases involving the upper limb.
If you’re looking for injury prevention measures, or are currently suffering from mild pain in your shoulder after bouldering, read on to find out some things you can do to help yourself.
Common Shoulder Injuries During Bouldering
Bouldering can challenge the limits of both our shoulder mobility and stability, which unsurprisingly can lead to shoulder pain. Some of the most common climbing injuries that we see include:
Symptoms: Ongoing pain between the front of the shoulder and side of the arms, weakness in the shoulder
Shoulder impingement commonly occurs due to the narrowing joint space. This can be brought on by swelling from overuse and repetitive overhead shoulder movements. Additionally, poor shoulder joint position due to the shape of your collarbone and poor posture can cause shoulder impingement which results in pain and irritation.
Rotator Cuff Muscles Strain
Symptoms: Pain at the front of the shoulder, snapping or clicking sensation
A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and joints surrounding the shoulder joint. Climbing with poor posture and over-reliance on the arms instead of engaging your shoulder blades increases strain on the rotator cuff muscles. If left unattended, this may even lead to cuff tears.
Symptoms: Loss of shoulder strength, decreased range of motion, grinding or popping in the socket
SLAP (Superior Labrum, Anterior to Posterior) tears, or labrum tears, are tears that happen in the cartilage in the inner part of your shoulder. They can be due to a number of things, including overuse, injury, or even genetics. If you experience pain and/or instability when climbing or bouldering, it may be worth checking for labrum tears. Left untreated, this injury type can lead to more serious problems like shoulder dislocations.
Symptoms: Swelling, dull ache, tender shoulder
This is a result of inflammation of the tendon, mostly due to overuse. The most common type of tendonitis in the shoulder is known as Pitcher’s Shoulder, which happens when the rotator cuff tendon experiences an increased load.
Ways to Prevent Shoulder Injuries When Bouldering
Focus on Strengthening
While climbing makes use of a lot of muscle groups, most of the time it puts more load on the frontal side of the body, and may inadvertently cause a muscle imbalance between your front and back. To improve your climbing, focus on strengthening the muscles on your back, such as the latissimus dorsi, lower trapezius, and yes, even your glutes! This will help you to evenly distribute the load and prevent injury.
Watch Your Technique
When bouldering, it is important to use the right climbing technique in order to prevent shoulder pain. If you are not using the right technique, your shoulder will be put through a lot of pressure and you may experience pain. One of the most common mistakes that people make when bouldering is not using their core muscles. When your core muscles are engaged, they help to stabilize your body and keep your shoulders in their correct position. Additionally, using good hand placement is also important when bouldering. When your hands are placed correctly, they will help to distribute the weight evenly across both arms and shoulders.
Remember to Stretch and Warm up
Dynamic stretching before climbing allows your muscles and joints to go through their full range of motion. This will increase muscle mobility in your shoulders, neck and back, allowing it to contract with more force without injury. Additionally, warming up with a jog or jumping jacks is a good way to get your blood pumping, getting your body ready for the bouldering session!
It is also important to perform static stretches after each session, allowing your heart rate to get back to its normal level. Static stretches post-workout also allows for muscle lengthening, reducing any stiffness in your joints and muscles that may cause it to cramp or lose its flexibility.
Suffering From Shoulder Injuries and Pain?
Shoulder injuries and pains may be common amongst those who boulder and climb, but they don’t have to be. Our expert physiotherapists can help you recover and be on your way to injury-free climbing through physical therapy. Reach out to us today to find out more about how we can help.
Last Reviewed by Jaden Lim on 20/04/2022