Climbing is very special. I find it is particularly good for easing back pain, especially upper back pain. The golden rule of back pain for many syndromes is to move no matter what (never surrender). Backs can be really contorted and mishandled on climbing walls and generally they don’t seem to mind. Bad backs like it…they get better, well mine does.
In my mind I’m a fell runner, a long distance ultra marathon runner covering 50 miles a day, me effortlessly jogging along under blue sky and stars…
In truth, the body just isn’t having any of it. It’s hard not to be a fell runner in Chinley, heart of the Peak District, mecca for runners and cyclists and all things outdoors, but in my world the ligaments are too loose to allow any strenuous activity without the joints going out of shape.
Hypermobility is a pretty innocuous sounding word, yet the effects manage to infiltrate virtually every aspect of my life. Jogging more than 200 yards causes pain. Pain in the lower back, upper back, hips, neck, knees, rotating pain, it moves around the body. Sitting causes pain…never truly mending, just appearing somewhere else…
The physios and the consultants and podiatrists have all studied the asymmetries and muscle imbalances and they have done a great job at keeping me going but no-one has yet helped me to become a fell runner. I know now that that will never happen. Ironically, I can usually walk for miles and miles (which is great). I can swim and… I can climb.
Climbing for Back Pain
In fact, I am a theraclimber! One hour of intensive bouldering twice a week, plus using the auto belayers. Auto belayers on overhangs – that psychological challenge that requires one to launch into space, freefall and trust a machine is going to catch and lower oneself to the ground from 60 feet up…Important to take a sharp intake of breath before launching off. It helps manage the fear factor. One day I’ll be desensitised. For now the real climbers can just scorn me and tell me to ‘man up’*.
Managing a busy life and climbing
Running a business and having a small child make it difficult to find time to take a whole evening out to climb with friends, so for me it’s intensive one hour theraclimbing wall sessions and the dreaded overhanging auto belayers that provide the relief and make life bearable…[By the way, standard warning, if you have back pain consult with a qualified physio/ medical professional before hauling up those overhangs just to check that yours is the sort of back pain that mends doing this sort of stuff.]
By Ann, age – somewhere in her 40’s
*Womenclimb addendum…perhaps they mean ‘woman up’, after all, we are pretty strong, no?