With the recent trend of cross fitness training in the early 2000's, and the growing interest in climbing sports, specifically rock climbing, elbow injuries along with other upper extremity injuries are becoming more prevalent.
Most often injuries to the elbow are to the biceps muscle. However a lesser but still common injury to the elbow is a strain of the brachialis muscle which is located close to the biceps and assists the biceps when bending the elbow. This injury is called Climber's Elbow. It is caused by a forceful flexion contraction of the muscle greater than it is able to tolerate or a forceful over extension of the elbow. Most often this injury, like most muscle injuries, are a result of a previous lesser strain to that muscle that likely never was caught or was not allowed to heal properly. The athlete then returned to full activity too early resulting in the injury.
Diagnosis of Climber's Elbow begins with a clear understanding of the mechanism of injury. This comes from the patient's report of how the injury occurred. Using skilled palpation and specific muscle testing of the elbow in various positions, an expert in musculoskeletal injuries will be able to distinguish between the more common biceps strain and Climber's Elbow.
Treatment of Climber's Elbow depends on the severity of the injury. A Grade 3 strain, a complete tear of the muscle away from its attachment point near the bone, is a surgical case. The less severe Grade 1 and 2 strains can be treated conservatively by a musculoskeletal injury expert. Below is a typical progression through the stages of healing for Climber's Elbow.
Acute (Inflammatory) Stage (0-2 weeks)
Sub-acute (Repair) and Chronic (Remodeling) Stages (2-8 weeks)
It's important to note that the time frames listed above for the stages of healing for Climber's Elbow are just typical time frames. These would be the expected times only if the healing process occurs normally. Different body types, conditions, and compliance will effect this.
Dr. Jared Wilson, DC, MS
Dr. Jared Wilson blogs about chiropractic health and other relevant health news. He is an expert in musculoskeletal injuries and functional rehab. He holds a Chiropractic Doctorate degree and a Masters degree in Exercise and Sports Science.