Climbing Injury Treatment

Union PT has been serving the climbing community for many years. We have experienced climbers on staff and our therapists who don’t climb know your sport very well. We have served some of the regions strongest climbers, industry athletes and professional climbers. What ever your current level is we have researched and developed programs to address the issues that are specific to climbing.

A climber’s body develops patterns of muscle dominance and imbalance that are unique to this sport. Being aware of these patterns helps us prescribe the rehab and return to sport programs for our patients. We know the movements required and the demands your body needs to stand up to when returning to climbing and ramping up training. Union PT collaborates with local gyms providing quarterly injury prevention seminars for Vertical World as well as providing youth injury screening for the Seattle Bouldering Project Climbing Team. Union PT was also involved in providing event coverage for the Northwest Boulderfest.

Always consult your physician or physical therapist before beginning any exercise program. The general information we are providing here is not meant to substitute or replace a healthcare professional. If you think you have a health emergency or experience increased pain please call your doctor or 911 immediately. We make no representations or warranties concerning any usage of the information here and will not be liable for any direct, indirect, special, exemplary losses or damages that may result. Reliance on any information contained in these videos is strictly at your own risk.

Program Highlights:
  • We know climbing and climbers bodies
  • We treat climber’s elbow, shoulder pain, pulley injuries as well as post-traumatic injuries related to falls
  • Return to Climbing Training Plans

Antagonist Exercises for Injury Reduction

As a climbers you develop patterns of muscle dominance and stiffness through your core, shoulders and arms. These patterns of dominance can in some cases have a negative impact on flexibility, joint alignment, and joint stability. This can eventually lead to injuries in the shoulders, elbow, hands and nerve compression syndromes such as thoracic outlet. The simple practice of spending 15 to 20 minutes training a few key climbing antagonist after your climbing sessions can help you to climb longer and climb stronger with a more balance body.

Intrinsic Hand and Grip Strength Exercises for Rock Climbers With Pulley Injuries

Dominance in the extrinsic long finger flexors in the presence of weaknesses in the intrinsic muscles of the hand can be associated with flexor pulley overload and injury. These exercises can help to improve the load balance between these sets of muscles in the hand as you attempt to heal a pulley injury.

Shoulder Pain Exercises – Level I – Foundations

The Level I series of exercises were designed for climbers who have a history of shoulder pain and are looking to improve the balance of muscle length and muscle control around the shoulder complex. All climbers should start with the Level I series to learn the basic movements and principles applied in Level II and Level III. These are good exercises to perform prior to climbing. These exercises could be performed daily or every other day to allow for recovery from muscle soreness.

Level II – Progression

The Level II series of exercises are designed for climbers who have completed the Level I series for up to two weeks and are looking to prevent shoulder pain. These exercises are ideal for a person climbing without pain and who is looking to maintain a healthy balance of muscle length and control in the shoulder complex . These exercises can be done every other day to allow for muscle recovery.

Level III – Performance

The Level III series of exercises are designed for climbers who have completed the Level II series for up to 2 weeks and are looking to prevent shoulder pain. These exercises are ideal for a person climbing without pain and who is looking to maintain a healthy balance of muscle length and control in the shoulder complex. These exercises can be done every other day to allow for muscle recovery.

A Guide to Your Torn Shoulder Labrum Recovery

What to Expect from Your Shoulder Labrum Surgery Recovery   What is a SLAP Tear aka a Shoulder Labrum Tear?   Having a shoulder injury is stressful enough but when you start hearing latin words or acronyms from your doctor (or Dr. Google) it can add a layer of confusion on top of everything.   What... Read more »

Preventing Injuries in Youth Rock Climbing

Preventing Injuries in Youth Rock Climbing Youth rock climbing is on the rise! Who are all these little crushers all over the climbing walls? Youth climbing has grown significantly over the last decade and with the sport’s recent debut in the olympics, it’s growth and popularity among young climbers is sure to continue. With the... Read more »

Common Climbing Elbow Injuries and How to Treat Them

Why Won’t This Elbow Pain Just Go Away?   Causes of climbing elbow injuries   When we are climbing there are (typically) just two points of contact between the wall and yourself: your toes and your hands.  Your toes have the luxury (luxury being a relative term depending on how tight your shoes are…) of... Read more »

Common Climbing Shoulder Injuries and How to Treat Them

4 Exercises to Get Your Shoulder Ready For Fall   Common climbing shoulder injuries  Our shoulders are a pretty amazing joint; they allow for movement in nearly any plane. Due to the nature of the joint, we trade some amount of stability in favor of maintaining a significant amount of mobility. As a result, the... Read more »

Common Route Setting Injuries and How to Prevent Them

  Route Setter or Industrial Athlete?   Route setting has developed in to a highly demanding career in recent years, as worldwide we have seen an explosion in indoor climbing facilities. According to the Climbing Business Journal, the number of climbing gyms in the US has consistently increased annually, with 2019 showing 5% growth of... Read more »

Best Hangboard Workout For Finger Strength and Rehab

Why Should I Do A Hangboard Workout? No Substitute For Strong Fingers In short: there’s no replacing finger strength.  Even if you’ve been training core, arms and shoulders; can hold front levers with ease or do five single arm pull ups, it is ultimately your fingers in contact with the rock (or plastic) and if... Read more »

Pulley Injury Protection, Rehab, and Prevention Online Virtual Workshop

Join Physical Therapists Mitch Owens and Shannon Russell along side Dr. Winston Warme, head of University of Washington’s Orthopedic Surgery team and creator of The SPOrt ™ tendon brace as they discuss proven interventions for pulley injuries as well as best practices to avoid these injuries on your next climb.      

5 Tips for a Great Backpacking Pack Fit

5 Tips for a Great Backpacking Pack Fit Let’s start out by saying, we have all been there…you know the 1 hour into the trail and the weird pressure points and pains start to make their way onto your body and you can’t believe you’ve only been hiking for 1 hour, when it feels like... Read more »

Climbing Finger Pulley Injury

Climbing Finger Pulley Injury: Rehab and Splint Applications What is a Pulley Injury from Rock Climbing? Pulleys in our fingers act much like the eyelets on a fishing rod. They work to keep the tendons that flex our fingers close to the bone, to create a mechanical advantage and limit “bowstringing” of the tendon on... Read more »

Late To The Party: Climbing Hard-ish While Starting as an Adult

A PT’s Perspective On Training Who Is This Guy? What began as a summertime diversion until the next snowboard season has turned into a full blown passion.  I didn’t start climbing until I was 30 but have since jumped in with both feet.  It feels weird and braggy to say but I was able to... Read more »

Navigating Online Climbing Training Platforms  

A PT’s Guide to Getting Started   What Is Out There?   A ton!  Climbing is more popular than ever and people are serious about their performance.  Reflecting that is the volume of plans, platforms, and companies offering their training services.  It ranges from slick, app based, professionally individualized assessment with loads of data gathered... Read more »

Climbing Grip Choice and Injury

Climbing Grip Choice and Injury   By: Dustin Steffan, DPT Hand injuries, specifically pulley injuries, are common amongst climbers. Pulley injuries are slow to heal and often responsible for a great deal of missed climbing time. Grip choice can have a dramatic impact on this type of injury. One element at play is the choice... Read more »

Physical Therapy for Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder (aka adhesive capsulitis) is a condition of the shoulder in which the shoulder capsule – the connective tissue that surrounds the joint – becomes inflamed and fibrotic, leading to pain, joint stiffness, and loss of functional movement of the shoulder. Little is known about the underlying cause of frozen shoulder, however some factors... Read more »