I am 40 and have been climbing for 25 years. I get pain and stiffness in the joints at the end of my fingers for several days after climbing, particularly if I have been crimping a lot. The pain seems to be getting progressively worse.
Aaron / rockandice.com Forum
Finger pain and climbing are like Johnny and June—inseparable. Though at first it may be such things as skin and joint pain from excessively thrashing yourself to oblivion, in middle age it is more likely due to some form of degeneration … plus or minus thrashing yourself to oblivion. Aging is like a glacier gouging its way around your body—unseen, inexorable. Your pain and how it presents is virtually textbook osteoarthritis (OA)—although, as usual, it is not the only possible diagnosis.
Usually due to an umbrella of factors related to aging and mechanical overload, OA initially affects the joint surface, with other signs and symptoms—such as bone spurs and debris within the joint—to follow. The synovial cartilage that lines the end of the bone (the shiny surface) degenerates and becomes inflamed. This process, along with inflammation of the capsule around the joint, results in stiffness, swelling and tenderness that increase after a workout.
The obvious and unfortunate repercussion is that the joint will no longer tolerate what you are doing to it, be it the volume or intensity of your climbing, or other specifics like joint angles (read: crimping).
Like almost every middle-aged rock star, including myself, you are suffering the accumulative effect of aging, which is quite a humbling journey.
Some people will suffer enough from OA that climbing becomes a somewhat unhappy experience, and, if not sexually active anymore, they may consider taking up golf. Most will slow down a bit and continue to enjoy their climbing. Some will negotiate their way through it, temporarily staving off the consequences of an ultimately unstoppable process.
Smart training goes a long way! As it turns out, flogging yourself on the bouldering wall for three hours is not the most effective way of training.
Multiple shorter sessions are likely to produce less pain and swelling, and strengthen aspects of climbing that will help avoid annoying the finger joints excessively. Brief, structured sessions on the finger board and campus board (no full crimps) will maximize your open-hand strength as well as minimize time on potentially aggravating holds in a gym or on a cliff. Be careful, though. The Christians had a better record against the lions than climbers do with the campus board.
How does Alpha Brain [a nutritional supplement purported to increase mental acuity, among other things] affect climbing?
Gerry Hampton / Boulder, Colorado
Well, it’s complicated. Normal people assume that all things sold in The Shops are thoroughly tested by The Government and therefore must perform, at least for a while, as it says on the box. If they didn’t, that would be lying and punishable by The Police. These people move through the world with absolute conviction that the things they buy will make them better in some way. The more expensive, the better it will be.
Enter the dragon that is Alpha Brain, complete with unknown white powder, a name that demands subservience from your ego, and a stamp from the FDA. Now enter the brain that is not so alpha—yours. Pliable in all the wrong ways, you quickly fall for the pretty colors and magic-box mentality. Ironically, this setup often works out great for everybody via the placebo effect. You believe it will help you, therefore it does.
With some anticipation, you take some as soon as it arrives in the mail. Oddly, your chest seems almost instantly more broad and your grip more vise-like. If only you could find a giant beer can to crush like an accordion.
Your attitude morphs, you feel greater confidence and possibly that your penis is bigger. You hold your head higher. You catch girls staring at you, which is odd since it’s typically the other way around.
Your climbing surges as your confidence grows. You dig deeper, pull harder. You try routes that once intimidated you, and find that they are not so bad and that you really are a great climber.
Wow, that Alpha Brain stuff is the shizzle.