Sore Shoulder after Belaying


Original Post
Nyte Knight · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 10

So I've noticed this before but wanted to get some feedback before I go running to a sports med doctor for something that is just muscle fatigue or can be corrected by a change in technique.

I've noticed after I belay a lot, my shoulder is getting sore at the top of the joint. I don't notice it when I'm climbing, but it starts up when I'm belaying. Roughly for every climb I do, the kidlet does 2-3 so I'm belaying most of the time. It hurts for 1-2 days and goes away with NSAIDs or Tiger Balm and rest.

I think it's a start of a repetitive motion injury and I've been told (unofficially by the 13-year old) that compared to other's that belay, I make large motions with the arm when pulling slack. She's a fast climber and feels more comfortable and confident with a tight tension, so I'm pulling in a lot of slack at one time. It's just pain, an achy type of pain, I can move the joint in all directions and there's no weakness or drop in strength.

so ideas on what the pain could be?
And any suggestions on how to avoid it in the future?

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Are you new to climbing and belaying? Did you have someone experienced teach you how to belay? If it's a technique problem, an experienced belayer might be able to tell what you're doing wrong.

Otherwise, it may be a medical issue that I'm not qualified to diagnose. I'm sure some other climbers will be able to diagnose it, as that is common here. :)

Nyte Knight · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 10
FrankPS wrote:Are you new to climbing and belaying? Did you have someone experienced teach you how to belay? If it's a technique problem, an experienced belayer might be able to tell what you're doing wrong. Otherwise, it may be a medical issue that I'm not qualified to diagnose. I'm sure some other climbers will be able to diagnose it, as that is common here. :)
I am new to both. I've only been climbing for a few months and I was taught how to belay in a private class by the gym and have passed the test and was approved to belay independently. But am still improving on my belay technique with practice.

I know I do throw my arm out farther as a way to take in a lot of slack at once. And I was wondering that large motion is what is causing the pain and should make smaller, faster motions? Or is this a serious sign of something else?
FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
You shouldn't need large motions to belay. Newer climbers often find belaying difficult and results in soreness. As you progress and gain experience, it becomes second nature and not painful or tiring.

If your climber is moving so fast that you need these large motions, tell them to slow down!

And have someone experienced review your technique.

Edit: Large movements with your brake hand arm make it harder to brake, too. Which can make it a safety issue, too.
Matt Stroebel · · Lakewood, OH · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 115

I used to get soreness in my shoulder after belaying in the gym, but not outdoors. I was using a Mammut Smart, I eventually figured out that while it was rated for thick gym ropes, there was a lot more friction between device and rope than when I used my ATC. This caused me to have to pull harder to take out slack. I switched to belaying in the gym with my ATC and haven't had any more soreness.

I second what Frank said about technique. It will take a little practice but with short belay strokes you'll actually be able to take in slack faster than with really long arm motions.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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