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Deltoid Strain?
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Feb 23, 2013
Hi Mt. Project,

About two weeks ago I was gym climbing and heard/felt a crunch in my left shoulder (my left arm was fully extended at shoulder-height and I was pushing down on a hold). It didn't hurt much when it happened, but I stopped climbing anyway to be safe. I saw a doctor within a few days who told me that it isn't a rotator cuff injury (thank god), that the shoulder is stable, and that it looks like a deltoid strain that should heal up on its own.

So now I'm two weeks in and it feels like it's not improving much. My range of motion is more or less fine, but certain movements - like a slow punch straight out, or washing my right armpit - cause mild discomfort, and my upper arm feels a bit weak in general. It's sore in the mornings but usually feels stronger/normaler as the day progresses.

So - my dilemma:

I had planned on heading to Red Rock two weeks from now for my first (!) multi day climbing trip. We would probably only be climbing up to 5.8 or 5.9 trad, but even so, is this a bad idea? I don't want to eff up my arm long-term by using it too soon, but I also don't want to miss the trip. If I'm going to go I need to pull the trigger on some plane tickets soon!

Please advise, and thanks!
Joined Aug 8, 2010
0 points
Feb 23, 2013
In general, muscular injuries can take up to 6 weeks to heal. That is not the same as to return to normal strength. Again, in general, muscle strains do not generally "crunch"; however, "crunch" is a fairly non-specific symptom. The exact mechanism of injury is a bit challenging to discern from your description. Typically shoulders abduct or adduct and internally or externally rotate.

Shoulders are one of the most complex joints in the body. Having injured both of mine, I would recommend that you see an orthopedist or possibly a shoulder specialist. Neither of these are easy to get into see in a short period of time. Shoulders can take up to 6 months to heal from. My right one did. My left one still isn't normal.
Leo Paik
From Westminster, Colorado
Joined Jan 1, 2001
23,681 points
Feb 23, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: coming up alcoa presents on the east side of Senec...

You need to see a specialist. Whether it is a physical therapist or orthopedist, just someone beyond an internist. You didn't specify what type of doctor, but I am guessing. It is possible to have a deltoid strain, but unlikely. Could be anything from a torn labrum to AC strain, with rotator cuff involvement as well. You probably are strong enough with climbing to disguise a partial tear if tested with basic strength testing. So, don't totally disregard the notion of rotator cuff involvement. Best case scenario: you just chill and let it heal.

Would you run a marathon on a sprained ankle. Probably not due to the fact that it would be much worse and turn this condition into something chronic, which totally can mess up the healing time. Take it from someone who has climbed with shoulder issues for at least 7 years. If you decide to go the Red Rock, then just cruise routes 2 or 3 grades below your onsight. If it hurts, then stop and do something else. Mountain bike or go to Zion and hike. Don't let the pressure/anticipation of this trip jack your shoulder up long term. It is only one of many trips.

Hope this helps,
From michigan
Joined Jul 13, 2006
299 points
Feb 24, 2013
hmm... That's good advice, guys, although not exactly what I was hoping to hear. I'm going to try to set up an appointment with a specialist this week if possible..

Thanks for responding!
Joined Aug 8, 2010
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