Q. Why do my elbows pain and swell every time I climb?

Answered by
Dr. Sreenivasa Rao
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Apr 02, 2017 and last reviewed on: Aug 09, 2021

Hi doctor,

I have a climber's elbow, it is there for years, and nothing I do helps to relieve the pain. The soreness in my elbow is isolated to mostly the pronator teres muscle, and it pains whenever I do vertical pulling exercises such as pull up, pull downs, and seated rows. I recently stopped exercising for about eight months due to a shoulder strain, and when I got back to the gym, my very first session caused severe pronator teres muscle soreness and inflammation. Did I just lift too much weight too soon? Should I be lifting less weight until I am sure my body can handle it? How come I have met so many rock climbers who never get climber's elbow? But, I have to ice down my elbows every time I climb.



Welcome to

  • You would have probably lifted too much of weight that your body cannot handle in the first session.
  • In any training we need to first prepare your body for that activity with less load initially, once your body is ready to take it, then you can increase the load either by increasing volume or repetitions.
  • I suggest you to kindly ice your elbows now, frequently like 5 to 6 times, to reduce the pain and soreness and follow it with proper stretching. You can take anti-inflammatory tablets after consulting your doctor.
  • Now coming to your climber's elbow, since you are aware of your issue, I suggest you take proactive steps to prevent it by strengthening your forearm and wrist muscles. You can try using a golfer's elbow splint, to reduce the load on the tendons of pronator teres muscle and other wrist flexors.
  • There are many options as follows.
  1. Start icing your forearm regularly, 5 to 6 times in a day for 15 mins at least, if you think you have some swelling then increase icing frequency to once in every two hours.
  2. Once swelling gets reduced, then slowly start working on forearm and wrist strength. You can use a resistance band to start with and keep loading your forearm with weights progressively after 2 to 3 weeks.
  3. Once you think you did a good work on strength with good loading for your whole body, start a lot of stability exercises for the shoulder and gluteus muscles. I recommend you to get back to climbing after 6 to 8 weeks.
  4. Get a Hydrocortisone injection done under ultrasound guidance by an orthopedic doctor. Work on rehabilitation and strengthening of your forearm and wrist.
  • Rehabilitation exercises that can help you initially are as follows, in sitting position,
  1. With the forearm supported and wrist outside, with the palm facing upwards, move your palm from wrist extension to flexion.
  2. With the forearm supported and wrist outside, with the palm facing the floor, move your wrist from flexion to extension.
  3. With the forearm supported and wrist outside the support, with the palm facing down do supination. In this, you can wrap the resistance tube around the forearm, and the other end can be held with the opposite hand.
  4. With the forearm supported and wrist outside the support, with the palm facing upwards do pronation. You can wrap the resistance tube opposite to the movement performed, and the other end can be tied.
  5. You can hold a weight plate say about two pounds and walk for 20 meters.
  • Stretching your forearm muscle is the key to recovering faster. I recommend you to do a good warming up of forearm and wrist muscles as well in your routine. Do a good cool down stretches more for your forearm and wrist muscles.
  • I suggest you have a check on the exercise form, especially your wrist position while doing gym, as they play a very vital role in the muscles under load.

Hope this is helpful for you. Revert in case you need any further assistance.

For further queries consult a physiotherapist online -->

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