February 2, 2022

How to Prevent Knee Pain when Rock Climbing

by Bernice

Table of Contents

Rock climbing could be bad for the knees if you don’t take proper care of your joints. Climbing-related knee pain and other climbing injuries are common but rarely discussed.

They’re common in specialized motions like heel hooking, drop knee, and high steps. Excessive usage can also cause them to repeatedly land while climbing or during climbs and descents with a large pack.

Climbing can put your knee in unfavorable postures, putting strain on the cartilage and ligaments with its complicated movements.

The huge thigh bone, the femur, torques inwards towards the shorter lower-leg bone; it might happen in specific movements like drop knees, namely tibia.

Is Rock Climbing Bad for Joints?

Rock climbing could be bad for your joints as rock climbing puts a strain on your joints, causing the 2-4 mm cartilage that function as padding between your bones to deteriorate.

Although a little joint pressure is necessary for cartilage stability, excessive joint stress caused by impact, compression, or shearing forces could cause degenerative changes.

Even though the joints are now in good health, persistent inflammation is the main factor of degenerative changes down the street, according to studies like one featured in Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease (2013).

So keep an eye out for swollen fingers (also known as synovitis), a condition known among climbers! Even though science is working hard to find ways to repair cartilage, your best protection is prevention or altering your lifestyle.

How do I Protect my Knees when Climbing?

You can protect your knees when climbing, following the steps below.

1. Weight and form balance

Because they carry most of the body’s weight, your hips and knees are more susceptible to damage. Every level step taken puts stress on the knee of 3-6 times the body weight.

As a result, simply being 20lbs or wearing an extra 20lbs in your backpack puts 60-120lbs to your knees.

That’s why, for optimum knee wellness, it’s critical to keep a healthy body weight and minimize any excessive pack weight.

You may modify your posture or pack load if you frequently have knee problems on downhills or are sore after that.

2. Wear appropriate shoes

Wearing the proper shoes could make a huge difference in how comfortable your knees are. Make sure you’re putting on well-cushioned shoes so when your heel hits the floor, the shoe absorbs the majority of your body weight instead of your knee joint.

Always put on comfortable shoes. Wearing the incorrect size can cause just as much, if not more, harm to your body.

If you desire a more secure fit or greater arch support, gel inserts are an excellent option. Tie the climbing shoes snugly around the feet, which will soften the blow of your feet against the front of the shoe.

3. Flexibility and strength for your joints when climbing

Though mountain climbing will assist you in keeping fit, it’s also crucial to keep the muscles stretched and engaged by staying active regularly and stretching frequently.

The majority of climbing injuries occur due to people staying inactive for lengthy periods and then leaping into a rigorous sport too quickly. If you keep your leg muscles firm, you’ll be considerably less prone to have knee problems.

Make sure to work out the hamstrings, calves, inner thighs, and quads using weighted workouts. They’ll support your body weight and relieve the strain on the knees when you’re hiking.

Incorporating ankle weights into your normal leg exercises, or strolling about the house, is a straightforward way to get to work your legs.

4. Consume lubricating foods for your joints

Your diet plays an important role in overall health and could also aid in the maintenance of your knees. Diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, olive oil, and walnuts, assist in keeping the joints lubricated, resulting in much less grinding, friction, and soreness.

Consider this: Injuries usually happen at the poorest link of the chain; injury safety or, more accurately, injury mitigation is effective when all connections in the chain are made as robust as possible. 

You must favor rope climbing over bouldering to prevent re-injuring the knee, according to the researchers, because it “avoids accidents and has a direct effect on your knee.”

While bouldering, experts also propose that “down climbing,” a safe descent, or “top out,” a simple alternative descent, be preferred over jumping down.

What is the Most Common Injury in Rock Climbing?

The most common injury in rock climbing is finger pulley injury. The more tough climbs you begin to take on, the more you train, the more likely you will sustain an injury.

It happens when the bodyweight overloads the tendon in the finger, which commonly happens while you crimp during the climb. It’s also known as ‘climber’s finger.’

Climbing puts a lot of pressure on your tendons, which run along the edges and within your fingers. Broken finger tendons cause discomfort around.

Most climbers tape their hurting fingers and continue climbing, which can result in lengthy tendonitis in your fingers.

What are the Most Common Causes of Knee Pain among Rock Climbers?

The most common causes of knee pain among rock climbing are listed below.

  • Overtraining, repetitive motions or a major trauma like a fracture or torn ligament in an intense action or perhaps a collision are the most common causes of climbing injuries.
  • Damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, and surrounding tissues is frequent in all types of rock climbing, including bouldering, fingerboard, and route climbing.
  • Bouldering has a significant risk of musculoskeletal problems because of the forceful, frequent, and most dynamic movements that put additional stress on the muscles and joints and the dangers of falling onto ahead ground or mat.
  • Sprains and fractures are common effects in roped buildings and bouldering. 
  • Climbing requires a lot of flexibility, and it’s simple to over-strain or over-stretch your connective tissue or muscles, especially when the body is under pressure when you spring or stretch for a climb.
  • Climbers are prone to neck, upper back, shoulder injuries, and the more prevalent elbow and finger problems. In climbing, muscle imbalance plays a big role, with highly developed upper back or forearms muscles, for instance, causing overworked tendons in all those locations.

What Kind of Shoes Should I Wear to Prevent Knee Pain?

The shoes you should wear to prevent knee pain are running, athletic, and sport-specific such as climbing shoes for climbing.

These shoes are the finest footwear for people with joint discomfort to offer optimum support and cushioning for you and the joints. The shoes will also assist you in maintaining your ideal orthopedic wellbeing.

While many athletic footwear brands promise to give the finest fit and cushioning, research reveals that they aren’t often the best.

According to a study in 2016 publication in the Annals of Internal Medicine, there was no change in knee pain levels between individuals who stepped in improved shoes and those who didn’t work in 164 individuals with knee osteoarthritis.

Instead, look for a strolling shoe that is flexible and pliable when purchasing one. Shoes that are overly rigid or rigid tend to limit the mobility in your foot.

Also, search for a shoe with a lighter sole to reduce the strain on the knees. It’s also a good idea to wear heels that aren’t too obvious.

The ideal shoes will comfortably fit, provide flexibility, and allow you to keep your normal stride and gait. Wearing the correct shoes can help you avoid knee problems and is among the most critical aspects of addressing more chronic knee issues like osteoarthritis.

Is there a Wrong Way to Tie my Shoes to Prevent Knee Pain?

The wrong way to tie your shoes to prevent knee pain starts when you put on the incorrect pair of shoes puts a massive strain on the hips and knees.

It may not appear to be a significant issue, although it is. The biggest joints in the body, the hips, and knees, are crucial to preserving your weight. That is why it is critical to wear the proper footwear.

  • The soreness is concentrated in one area on the upper foot.
  • Before the sore spot, lace up your shoe to the eyelets.
  • Reverse the lace and pass it through your next eyelet on the very same side. Do it on both sides, and you’ll have a blank void that will give that sore spot little room while also relieving the discomfort.

How Do I Know If I Have an Injury to my Knees?

You can know if you have an injury to your knees based on the condition’s origin since the area and degree of knee pain might vary. The level of injury and the injured knee area determine the signs and indicators of a knee injury.

The following list consists of the most common signs of injury to the knees.

  • Stiffness and swelling 
  • Warmth and redness
  • Instability or weakness
  • Crunching and popping sounds
  • Knee not being able to straighten completely
  • Knee bending difficulties
  • Problems bearing weight
  • Knee immobilization
  • A sense of insecurity
  • Bruising

If the damage is severe, the most common symptoms are knee discomfort and Edema. The signs of popping, clicking, and periodic pain are more noticeable if the damage is persistent or caused by overuse.

However, you should see a doctor in the following cases.

  • Can’t bear the weight on the knee, or you feel it’s unstable or rather if it gives out.
  • Have noticed significant knee swelling.
  • If you can’t fully stretch or flex the knee.
  • Have a visible abnormality in the knee or leg.
  • Have acute knee pain as a result of an injury.

What are the best exercises for rock climbers to avoid knee pain?

The best exercises for rock climbers to avoid knee pain are listed below.

1. Resisted drop knee with the upper press

The opposing pressures of both the feet and reaching arm are coordinated in the exercise. You can spin your knee and hip as a unit throughout a drop knee if you have good hip control and strength.

Furthermore, the exercise will increase muscle strength that aids in the absorption of shock when climbing or on ascent and descents with a heavy backpack.

2. Increase your resistance

Resistance bands are a practical way to practice preventative workouts at home, the gym, or on the move. Prone, hamstring twists with a rubber band are a wonderful way to bolster the glute and hamstring on the stomach. 

Anchor your band around the furniture leg or the bottom of the weight bench. On the other end, attach to your ankle and then curl your heel towards your glute.

Wrap a resistance band around the legs for it to sit about your ankles for a knee-targeted workout. Do side steps while squatting to increase the band resistance.

Take a few steps in the direction you want to go. Keep your knees in alignment with your hips and your feet parallel.

3. Warm up your body

Warm-up first and then flex before beginning any exercise. Stretching the front and back thigh muscles helps relieve tension in your tendons, which reduces pressure on your knees.

Warming up is critical; gentle movement before strenuous activity increases blood flow to muscles, resulting in localized heat that reduces the risk of muscular pulls or tears.

Whether you’re taking an extended pause between routes belaying a companion or a lengthy break between boulder issues, (re)warming up, particularly the lower body, could help avoid tweaks and tears.

After a rest period, run in place for just a moment or do a few jumping jacks to have the blood circulating again.

4. Physical therapy

Consider getting some physical treatment. If you have knee pain, see a physical therapist to develop a proper exercise routine.

5. Lift weights

Exercising with weights will help you boost the leg muscles to support the knees better and prevent situations. However, before beginning to lift weights to avoid knee pain, seek advice from a professional.

6. Maintain a healthy weight

Keep a weight that is suitable for your age and size to relieve stress on the knees and prevent knee problems.

7. Drink a lot of water

Hydrate! The importance of water in joint health cannot be overstated. Your cartilage contains the greatest water, accounting for 65-80 percent of the overall weight.

Water lubricates your joints and feeds the cells that grow, repair, and maintain your cartilage, in addition to lubricating them.

The standard guideline is to consume 30-50 ounces of water each day; athletes, on the other hand, require significantly more.

Picture credit: Education vector created by brgfx – www.freepik.com

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About the author 

Bernice

Bernice often jokes that she is better at climbing than walking. With avid parents of climbing, her first encounter with the high vertical rock walls was at the age of one. Her favorite style of climbing is bouldering.

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