5 December 2009

Being injured

Those of you who read this blog will know I've been complaining about an elbow injury for about a year now. IÕve still got it (in fact it's recently got worse) after this long because I haven't worked hard enough to get rid of it. Until the past three weeks it's really been no problem. Being careful with how I take care of myself has meant it's not affected my climbing hardly at all. In fact it's been rather good for my climbing as injuries often are (by improving my technique and tactics for recovery). My climbing this year has been in a long phase of development, a mix of trying extremely hard projects at around the 9a+ (or equivalent) level and doing easier routes quickly such as Present Tense (E9). Sadly though, my hope that the injury would eventually see itself off hasn't materialised. And now that the rest of my body is ready to step up my level of training again, I'm finding the injured tendon is not.

So It's time to step up the rehab and get serious. I'm fed up with this thing in the background all the time. The first time I got a finger injury at age 16, I was terrified of it. I was terrified to do anything to it in case I made it worse and permanently damaged it. This was a good thing because it forced me to put the hours into educating myself about what to do with it. After four months of experimentation, I was no longer scared of the injured tendon. So I worked it harder and harder (with rehab) and recovered.

Right now, I have the same situation with my elbow problem. I don't have direct experience of applying an aggressive rehab schedule to the tissue, so it's kind of scary. I don't want to get it wrong. Natural I suppose. It always seems to take being forced into action to overcome this. So here I am on a climbing trip, feeling strong but injured too. So I simply need to get over it. The last few days of doing this and jumping into a dedicated program of activities has been superb. I've lost my fear of this tendon and It's really responding to the work much faster than I expected it to. Great!

It's hard to swallow, but return from injury is often the best period for athletes in general. Long spells of training uninterrupted by injury often result in staleness and plateau. But injury forces you to either fail, or respond by looking deep into the technique and training to tease out errors and to understand that the body needs exceptional care if it is to sustain exceptional performance.

Lessons so far:

My previous regime of training by bouldering outdoors almost exclusively had it's limitations for pure strength, but really protected me from injury through it's variety of rock angles. I've gone too much the other way with repetitive steep bouldering on flat overhanging panels. This is still what I need to get stronger still, but mixed up with other things more than I have been.

My body might be better suited to 9a+ or harder if it was a bit lighter. Whether that brings other problems of it's own is another matter.

To absorb more training than now, I'll need to pay better attention to the quality of recovery - 70+ average hours per week working and resultant poor quality sleep has proved to have a cost.

Some other manual work will have to be done with more care so it doesn't contribute to the overall training load on particular parts of the body.


Leon said...

Hi Dave,

Super-interesting stuff!
Would you elaborate on how you work your elbows? What do you do for rehab?

Eagerly awaiting your book!

Iain said...

Ditto to Leon, I'm currently suffering elbow problems too and would be interested in hearing about your rehab regime.

Looking forward to hearing about Siurana successes!


Kim said...

Hey dave,

same question here...

and which tendon is irritated? is it below the joint (e.g. golfers/climbers elbow) or is it above the joint (e.g. triceps)?


ps. I was in siurana last month, say hi to the lovely people at the camp site, I see they fixed their internet pc after lighting struck during the big storm?

Brent Apgar DC said...

Thanks for the great post. As a health care provider who works w/ athletes interested in pushing their performance boundaries I often find myself explaining to people that pursuing performance gains is not without risk.
Thanks for the reminder that injury is unfortunately sometimes part of the process but can also be an opportunity to learn and improve ones training routine.
cheers, BA

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great perspective. And all the best for your healing process.

Dave MacLeod said...

Thanks all for the comments - I'll post up more about the elbow rehab in a sec... I've been amazed and most hearted at the effects a concerted effort can achieve. It's so easy to lose belief in rehab and just rest. Only in hindsight do you truly see what a mistake it is.

A dedicated book on this subject was actually meant to be my first book, but I got carried away and let the other one overtake. So the climbing injuries one is next!! Only causing irritation when flexor carpi ulnaris is giving it plenty.

BTW it's the common flexor tendon (golfers)

Jolli said...

Hi Dave!

The usual bad thing in the elbow injuries, as you, is that they tend to change from acute to chronic over the time. One reason for not to get rid of the shit is that the muscles really never get relaxed enough to lower the tension around the injured area. Worse even for climbers.

I have two solutions:

Have you ever tried trigger point therapy on your injury? Self applied is usually best as you can do it more regularly. Has done miracles for many having suffered from the tennis of golfers elbow.

The other thing I recommend is, well, very funny apparatus which is supposed to be used to wax cars. Like this:

It´s not very good in that purpose but for five years it has been the absolutely best machine to treat different recuperative issues for me and many others I´ve recommended it to. Being them climbers, powerlifters, swimmers, footballers etc...

The action is that it vibrates VERY strongly once applied next to skin (or shirt between) and the relaxing effect is much more intense than in sports massage.

Again Dave, I´m not joking at all. I´ve been a strength coach for many sports for almost 20 years and this is the single best thing I´ve ever met in this area of action.

Some very experienced sport docs, therapists, ostheopaths etc have been quite amazed when asked to try this strange machine. Usually after that they have taken it to use themself.

Feel free to ask more. Cheers!