Sunday, April 22, 2012

Medial Epicondyle

The great depression

Just before my 25TH birthday, something happened, something very serious… I totally ruined my elbow. Medial epicondyle is what I had with throbbing pain developing in my tendons connecting to the pronator teres muscle and the forearm flexor muscle. Oh shit, yes that’s right man. Fear the worse, I have been out of climbing for over 2 months. I haven’t taken more than 10 days of my climbing activities since I went to Africa 3 years ago.

What happened? What did I do? The elbow issue started on a climbing trip in the Czech Republic, Adrspach 2 years ago. I was struggling on a route miles below these stupid poxy rope knots (the Czech ethic protection). I was going to die for sure. I squeezed the crimp and locked off forever as hard as I could till my body could no longer hold as I reached high trying to find a concealed hold high up on the sandstone towers. From this I completely damaged my elbow but I assume it was worth it as I managed not to fall. Things could have been ugly otherwise.
   Over the years I have had to wear a tennis elbow band during climbing, and suddenly it got worse after a neck injury that blocked the nerve supply.

For those two depressing months I continued with work and life but sadly no climbing. I realized climbing is my whole life and I simply loved being off the ground wherever I was. I could not see a future without this passion.

In the meantime, I went to support my kids compete in their age category competition against other little ones from all over the southern England. Brilliant, Flynn and Nathan came 1st and 2nd and Eleanor came 1st. I must have done a good coaching job! Big thumbs up!

I was desperate for the elbow to heal therefore I tried every possible way to speed the healing up. I even did Birkram yoga! (yes it was good for the elbow)

Firstly, my neck was sorted out by a chiropractor near Oxford, the nerve supply was running through to my elbow and it was time to fix this now.

I had some ups and downs during my recovery in part of experimenting what’s best. I have divided the rehab into three phases that will be useful for other climbers who are suffering from the same problems. But remember everyone’s different, and everyone’s medial epicondyle is suitable to be recovered in different ways, so my philosophy is not for everybody but it certainly works for me.

Phase one: after the major damage, REST the elbow for minimum one week. Ice the elbow three times a day, 5-10 minutes then straight away dip the elbow into a bowl of warm water of the bath. This mainly reduces the swelling and decreases the pain over the days or even weeks.
   DO NOT take painkillers. The NSAID (Nonesteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs) this is mainly referred to Ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen, which simply slows down the recovery. Most fools take these painkillers to help reduce the inflammation and pain, which it does but totally interferes with the healing.

I have found some new research to help speed up the recovery for phase 1. Boswellia has been used long ago since Alexander the Great in the year 300 BC! The plant was used on his injured soldiers to help recover their injuries. Over two thousand years doctors have been inventing new cures for these situations but in my opinion nothing can beat this natural plant. Boswellia basically sends information to in injury and speeds up the healing enormously. By eating three meals a day take one Organic Boswellia 20 minutes before each meal everyday.

Depending on how bad the elbow has been damaged, Ultrasound and acupunctures from a local chiropractor helped to get in position for Phase 2.

Phase two: the pain is now from 0-4 out of 10. The swelling has reduced and the elbow is ready to build up SLOWLY again. The first few stretching sessions hurt I am afraid. Stretching at mild pressure over days/weeks till the elbow starts getting used to it then slowly add on some more pressure through stretching. After building up with the stretching from three times a day increase after 2 weeks to 5-10 times a day. Extensors stretch and the flexors stretch only. Definitely continue taking Boswellia tablets three times a day.

During Phase 2, slowly start the exercising the elbow with the rubber materials I have listed bellow.

Finger Extensions.
10 reps 2-3 times a day

Wrist extension with elastic band
10 reps 2-3 times a day

Forearm Supination
10 reps 2-3 times a day

Wrist Extension Twist
10 reps 2-3 times a day

Rubber Finger Extensions with Wrist Extension
10 reps 2-3 times a day

Demonstrations of these tasks can be found on

Phase three: the pain is now 0-2 out of 10, its time to climb again. This time you have to be smart, one mistake you are back to square one (I made that mistake)

Continue the Boswellia
Continue the stretching
Continue the entire forearm exercises

Now we must build up the exercise by using the pronator and follow from the video bellow.

After at least a few weeks progress slowly start climbing again from 5+/6a, then slowly build up to your maximum level over minimum two months.

After three sessions I rushed onto 7b and had to start these exercises all over again with great pain. Since I have been smarter by building up slowly, I have zero pain and climbing desperately hard within three weeks.

Most important of all, I am wearing a golfers elbow band for the first few months, which I highly recommend. This avoids heavy pressure on the elbow and after more months the tissue is strong once again.

After nearly three months off, I was struggling on 6b, my stamina had completely gone. I never knew what 6b would feel like being the limit. God It was desperate. I will now have great respect for the novice and old punters. After a few more sessions I was climbing grade 7 again and not long till I return to grade 8.

In future, I will change the way I climb, longer warming up and cooling down, always stretching are the main elements I am aware of. 

 The mess
 Weapon of choice
 Boring Bikram Yoga
 Nathan Flynn and Becky winning the BMC youth climbing series
 Czech Republic
 The towers
 Handmade protection
Dad had his eyes closed whilst belaying

 Dad seconding some bad ass
 After taking a whoppa, poor rope and protection increasing the death possibility
A clear vision of the gear (We put snooker golf balls inside the knots to make them stronger!!!)

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