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Wrist popping on crappy holds. Painful and achy.


Original Post
wesleyCneill · · Morgantown WV · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

My wrists, especially the right, have on several occasions felt like they briefly popped out of alignment when going for and weighting bad or slope-y holds. There is an audible "crack" and a brief moment of discomfort that goes away as soon as I unweight the hold.
Then, two days ago I was just exploring a big round ball sloper. I have never been able to keep hold of this guy, but I felt like today I might find a way to stick the hold and get past it. I was sort of playfully trying out weighting it in different position when... "CRACK CRACK" and more pain than during other wrist popping incidents.

My grip was open hand, wrist nearly straight, as was the case with all my other little popping incidents. Except this time there were two loud cracks and more pain. And, this time the pain didn't go away instantly. I still have a dull ache two days later. What I am feeling could barely be described as pain at all, but it is certainly slightly uncomfortable.

I have no noticeable loss of grip strength, no swelling, no reduction in range of motion. When doing pull-ups or bending the wrist to its maximum range of motion, the feeling goes from uncomfortable to very achy.

I've read a whole lot of "Yeah that happens to me too sometimes, but I dunno!" on all the forums I could find, but never has anyone said "Yeah, this happened to me and I got it checked out. Here is what it might be."

I have been climbing for about six months, bouldering in the V3 range and climbing in the 5.10 range, both indoor and out. I've been very careful not to over-do it, aware of horror stories of injuries that take you out of the game for months at a time. Should I be concerned?

LiamB · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 50

I've had similar issues after many years of climbing. It also comes in and out with lots of mountain biking and skiing. When I'm serious about antagonist and resistance exercises it usually is at bay. Exercises that help elbow tendonitis have helped my wrist. Stationary arm wrist curls with 5 pounds or a can of soup for warm ups have been really good. Finger extensions with a rubber band can help... Pushups and or dips are good antagonists but sometimes for me can be too much. if you've found yourself climbing harder and feeling better on those small crimps and awkward tips only holds, drop to a grade that is appropriate to warm up on and intentionally practice an open handed grip. Not only will it strengthen both open and closed positions but it will keep your wrist in a neutral position. Avoid lunging to slopers, rather practice settling into them in a comfortable way. I've often over done it and always find that moderation, intentional movement, and patience have healed injuries, kept from re injuring, and strengthened my climbing.

heres a doctor saying similar things!:

drjuliansaunders.com/wrist-…

Good luck!

Robert Rowsam · · Grand Junction, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 40

My wrists, especially my right one, often "pop out of alignment." Though it happens even when not climbing. Any lateral movement really like shaking hands, but it gets extra achy when I'm climbing on slopers in the gym.

I went to a sports doc a few years back when I was playing baseball and he called it a lose ligament issue. He gave me a few PT exercises like the ones Liam mentioned. Ones that helped me the most was just taking a hammer by the handle and lifting or rotating it. I'm sure a google search will turn up some.

I've been climbing for about 6 years, but quickly moved to trad climbing in part because of my wrist.

LiamB · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 50

Yeah the hammer is good! I also just remembered a frying pan with a 8-12" handle being really effective too!

wesleyCneill · · Morgantown WV · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

Liam, Robert

Thanks for the replies!

I'm scheduling a visit to the doc to get a definite answer. I don't think it's really that bad, but I'd hate to find out that I'm wrong the hard way. I'll keep working on the types of exercises you all mentioned in the mean time!

Cheers!

JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940

I developed this exact problem with my wrist a few years back. For me the problem came about when I started doing a lot of climbing on slopers in the gym, because slopers work the inside belly of the wrist and forearm much more commonly than the outside belly of the wrist and forearm, which not only throws the wrist out of line during use but also builds the muscles underneath in an uneven way, thus pulling the wrist out of line (I got all that off Julian Saunders article on the subject at the time). Exacerbating the problem was the fact that I love to crack climb, and finger cracks, especially steep finger cracks which more commonly require thumbs down finger locks, primarily work these muscles as well (my index and middle fingers are in fact substantially more hypertrophied than my ring and pinky fingers), and thus I was double teaming this problem with my climbing workout. To add to the problem, I was doing the hammer exercise mentioned here, but only in the right-side-up position, which was in turn over-strengthening the top inside of my wrist and forearm and thus contributing to the imbalance. The result was a constant dull ache in the outside belly of my wrist, and my hand stuck off my arm at an angle when relaxed, leaning toward my pinky. I also developed a ganglion cyst on the outside of my right wrist.

Addressing the issue (this was self diagnosed, as a couple of athletic trainers who for the record had no experience with climbers were unable to fix it) involved doing the hammer exercise a bunch of times with the hammer facing toward the ground, lifting the head of the hammer up and out from vertical to horizontal, and only doing the vertical hammer exercise from vertical to horizontal instead of through 180 degrees as this just puts too much strain on the wrist. I also had to build the top of my forearm to keep up with the muscles strengthened from the hammer exercise (weight on a rope and a dowel, the soup can stuff I tried for over a year, and even with a 20lb weight at 30 reps I was unable to really put any muscle on the top of my forearm, whereas 10lb on the forearm roller rope thing is doing the trick), and I spent all last winter and into the spring hanging on a hangboard after nearly every climbing workout with just my pinky/ring fingers in order to strengthen the outside belly of my wrist and forearm.

The result is I no longer have any pain, my hands no longer stick off at a funny angle when relaxed, the difference in my fingers is not so exaggerated, and the whole of my arm and wrist just feels nice and balanced and stronger than ever. There are a few tweaky undercling moves with my right hand that I just avoid altogether (I hope to get the cyst drained in the near future to hopefully fix this), but otherwise my hand and wrist works just fine. As evidence, I just did an extremely high intensity campus board session without any problems. Good luck with your injuries, and hopefully my experience can help guide you. I suggest looking at the exercises I mentioned, and looking at your own musculature, and adding in what you need.

Michael Lagueux · · San Diego, CA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 235

Dang, sorry to hear about your injury!

I've noticed that wrist pain in climbers often has to do with damaging the triangular fibrocartilage (often abbreviated to TFCC). It can take a lot of tension when slopers are being used, or become "squished" when using underclings with some degree of ulnar deviation. Of course, it could be other structures in the wrist that are giving you the trouble.

Just wanted to throw the TFCC thing out there, hoping that maybe that knowledge will help someone!

It might be a good idea to seek help from the health care professional of your choice, just to be sure.

David Deville · · Flagstaff, Arizona · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 60

Rice bucket. Seriously, dedicated work with my rice bucket worked a miracle on my wrist. It's the most effective PT I've ever had and I pretty much always have some minor injury and have been to lots of different docs/chiros/PTs.

JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940
Michael Lagueux wrote:Dang, sorry to hear about your injury! I've noticed that wrist pain in climbers often has to do with damaging the triangular fibrocartilage (often abbreviated to TFCC). It can take a lot of tension when slopers are being used, or become "squished" when using underclings with some degree of ulnar deviation. Of course, it could be other structures in the wrist that are giving you the trouble. Just wanted to throw the TFCC thing out there, hoping that maybe that knowledge will help someone! It might be a good idea to seek help from the health care professional of your choice, just to be sure.
I think this nails it in that it is that cartilage structure which is feeling the pain, due to the wrist being out of balance, which is in my experience caused by muscular imbalance in the forearm. This also vibes with my experience with the gangalion cyst, which for the record does not cause that nerve pain described in that link except perhaps in certain circumstances. Also, FWIW, in my particular case I would say it was most definitely a muscular imbalance due to everything I listed above (and add a preponderance of jug underclings to the list) due to the fact that it did not show up until I had built considerably more strength dynoing around on slopers, and the pain was present for quite some time thereafter despite plenty of rest as well as a complete change in climbing behavior, and the pain only went away when I hypertrophied the weak muscles. Thanks a lot for the info :)
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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