My 16 year old son has pain in his wrists, possibly tendonitis, from rock climbing?

by Michelle

Hi Joshua,

My 16 year old son is an avid rock climber.

He has been climbing for over a year, and is in love with the sport. The past few months his wrists started to bother him. He describes the pain as either pins and needles or a deep/sharp ache.

He is a very healthy kid, eats great, and is active. He is moderately lengthy and skinny (5’9”, 130 lbs) and his wrists are very small; if that could be somewhat of a contributing factor to his pain. The coaches at our local climbing gym said he would “climb out of it”.

He has discontinued climbing for the past month and the pain seems to be getting worse and not better. He says that they feel better when he is involved in some sort of activity that he has to use his hands (climbing, swimming, surfing, etc).

We have briefly been ice dipping. He has been ice dipping 20-30 times the past 5 days.

Some days his wrists feel better, some days they feel even worse.

A friend of mine said that it could possibly be carpal tunnel, but he does not have any numbness or tingling in his hands or fingertips.

My suggestion is that it could be tendonitis.

He’s getting really frustrated cause it is taking so long.

Do these kind of injuries take a long time to heal?

I am interested in buying your dvd but I am curious if you could help me or give me any advice or tips that could speed up the healing process.

Should he be taking any specific supplements?

Should he be doing any strengthening exercises?

Should he go on with his daily activities or minimize everything? As much information as you can give would be greatly appreciated.

p.s: We read of another boy who rock climbs on your blog who seems to be suffering from the same thing. You said it might be because of his protein and magnesium intake. My son has a high protein consumption and takes a daily vitamin that contains 300 mg Magnesium.

Thank you,



Joshua Answers:

Hello Michelle. Thanks for caring enough about your son to get involved.

Ok, so where to start.

Some thoughts, then some questions.

1. "Climb through it." Maybe. Makes me cringe a little bit though. It's either that this is new for him and he will adapt to the stresses placed upon his system by rock climbing, or the stress is overwhelming his system's ability to grow and compensate and he'll hurt more/hurt himself more if he keeps climbing.

2. It's definitely a Tendonitis dynamic, whether or not there is any actual tendon damage.

Sometimes the muscle is SO tight that it causes the kind of pain you talk about. Which isn't good for the tendon.

Could be he started in too fast and stressed his tendons, which freaks out the immune system and then makes the muscles SO tight that they hurt.....

3. "Do these kind of injuries take a long time to heal?"

It depends. Maybe. Too many factors to tell, but overall, left to their own devices, yes. Let's go with "This is going to be an ongoing problem unless you learn how to reverse it now."

4. As I recall, that other climber kid never responded back, so I'm glad we can continue. Rock climbing and wrist pain, and hand pain, and forearm pain, etc, is a rich topic, and a lot of people are suffering.

5. He feels better when keeping his hands active because that creates circulation, and literally keeps things loose(r) and mobile. I'd say don't climb, but do keep his body active.

6. Strengthening exercises? There's not much more strengthening than hanging from a rock by your fingers...

In other words, no. :)

7. I wouldn't worry about the small wrists thing. That's pretty much an urban myth.

8. If/when you get a DVD, I'd go for 'The Tennis Elbow Treatment That Works' over the Carpal Tunnel option.

9. Rock on on the ice dips. Keep at it for the near future. His response is good clues for me/us.


1. If he doesn't have tingling in his hands, where does he feel the tingling?

2. Where does he feel the deep ache?

3. He's 16, so I'm assuming he eats lots of food...say more about how much protein he eats in relation to everything else.

4. Where in California are you, in relation to San Francisco?

5. When he started climbing, did he ease into it or jump into it? How hard/often did he climb all that year?

6. Did he have any ache/soreness etc before this started hurting?

7. Did this pain come on slow, or come on fast?

8. Do his fingers/wrists curl forward at night?

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Oct 11, 2009
PART 2 - My 16 year old son has pain in his wrists, possibly tendonitis, from rock climbing?
by: Michelle

Hi Joshua,

Thank you for getting back to me so promptly. I appreciate your insight and willingness to help. Out of everyone we have talked to, I feel you are the most knowledgeable. I will answer your questions in order of how you listed them.

1. He feels no tingling what so ever.
2. He feels all the pain where his hands meets his forearms, below the palm and on the top side. Sometimes he has sharp pain in his forearms but he doesn?t complain about it all that much. Also, moderate pain between/below the ring and pinky on the top side of his hands. The pain is the same on both wrists.

3. When he started climbing he didn?t have a specific food regime. It was more of a ?see-food diet?- see food and eat it. Now that he is not climbing, he has become more consumed and captivated by it and has been reading books on climbing and nutrition. He tries to stick to a strict food routine. He strives for a 65:15:20 caloric ration of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. He tries for 400 grams carbohydrates, 70 grams of protein, and 30 grams of fat a day. As far as protein, he aims for 1.2-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. He would ultimately eat more and increase these areas if he was climbing/exercising more.

4. We live in Santa Cruz, CA.
5. When he first started climbing he eased into it and wasn?t climbing that often. But after a while he started climbing almost every day of the week for 5 hours or so. He didn?t really leave any room for rest or recovery, plus he wasn?t eating that great.

6. Before this started he did have soreness in his forearms, but he continued to climb.

7. He says the pain wasn?t one certain strain or fall. It came on slowly as he started to climb more and more often.

8. Yes, his wrists and fingers do curl forward at night. So we have purchased wrists braces that will keep his wrists straight. He has only been using them for a couple days now.

One more thing. If we decide to get your dvd, why should we purchase the Tennis Elbow Treatment over the Carpal Tunnel Treatment?



Oct 11, 2009
PART 3 - My 16 year old son has pain in his wrists, possibly tendonitis, from rock climbing?
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Joshua Comments:

Ok, thanks for that.

(In no particular order)

1. You said tingling in the original, so I'm glad I asked. No tingling.

2. Night splints good for the short term.

3. Definitely a Tendonitis dynamic of increasing tightness and pain.

He may or may not have wear and tear damage per se on his tendons, but 6 days a week for 5 plus hours....too much, too much. Definitely pushed them too far/put too much constant strain on them.

I wager we're more dealing with a freaked out nervous system that is keeping a pain mechanism in place more than any actual damage. If we catch it and reverse it now, we can keep his connective tissue and such from shrink wrapping down and getting tougher/denser.

So I could say a lot, and I will, but first let me invite you to take a day and come up and see me in San Francisco.

If he wants to A. get out of pain quickly and B. learn how to stay out of pain for the rest of his climbing career, it will be worth it for you to bring him up for a session. (Weekends are great)

I'll get a feel for exactly what is going on, he'll get a feel for exactly what's going on, and I'll do a lot of education. Including self care for what he needs to to do keep himself going, and possibly going as much as he wants to.

I'll even throw in a DVD.

Why a Tennis Elbow DVD over a Carpal Tunnel one?

Because he has more of a Golfer's Elbow dynamic (Exactly the same as Tennis Elbow but on the other side of the forearm). He has hand/finger issues too, but between the two dvds, the Tennis Elbow one is more specific to his needs.

Oct 12, 2009
PART 4 - My 16 year old son has pain in his wrists, possibly tendonitis, from rock climbing?
by: Anonymous

Hi Joshua,

I appreciate your offer to meet with my son. We are currently residing in our vacation home in Lake Tahoe where we spend our winters. My son is a sponsored snowboarder, and due to his hectic schedule traveling, competiting, and school work we won't be in the area any time soon. What I think would be best for now, is purchasing your dvd. Hopefully with this dvd we will be able to improve his situation. In the meantime, is there anything you can immediately suggest that will improve his tendonitis dynamic? Is there any additional information that is not included in the dvd you can provide?

- Michelle


Joshua Comments:

There's a lot to be said for hands on work, but yeah, distance creates it's little problems:)

In answer to your question:

1. Up his protein. It sounds like he's incredibly active, and he's 16. I'd wager that most of his protein is being burnt for fuel, and not for building and healing.

When I'm trying to put muscle on, about an hour after a regular meal I eat pure protein. Either cottage cheese, egg whites, or a protein drink.

My body get's it's fuel and storage needs from the meal, and then I throw it a bunch of protein, that goes for building and repairing.

Last year I did that while following a particular weightlifting and eating regimen, and I put on 30 pounds in 3 months.

It's not just protein. It's ENOUGH total protein available for growth and repair.

2. Good fats. Omega 3's and Coconut Oil.

3. KEEP ICING. Start ice massage and pester the deep spots in the forearm that hurt.

4. Find him a great massage therapist there in Tahoe.

#3 and #4 are going to be the fastest pain relief.

Oct 13, 2009
PART 5 - Protein Powder - My 16 year old son has pain in his wrists, possibly tendonitis, from rock climbing?
by: Michelle


Thank you for all of your time. One more thing...
If my son were to get a protein powder, what kind/brand would you recommend?



Joshua Comments:

Happy New Year Michelle!

Sorry for the 3 month gap in response....:(

From my local store I get NOW brand pure whey isolate. That's my standard and I always have it on hand (I eat a lot of protein, especially when I'm on a working out).

From Dr. Mercola online I get a couple different ones. I'd suggest this one for your son because it's got good protein -and- a bunch of other really good things for a body in it.

I like adding cinnamon to shakes, it helps with the taste. They're not -bad-, but they're not great, you know? The trick is, the more sugar they contain the better they taste....

Often I combine powders, one with no sugar with one that has some.

I occasionally try a new brand to try them out, but the above two I like and trust and are my mainstays.

My usual breakfast is two handfuls of dry oatmeal cooked, 2-4 tablespoons of coconut oil, and 25-50 grams worth of protein poweder, plus cinnamon. 240-480 calories of instantly available as fuel fat, 200ish calories of protein, and good carbs.

That would be a great start for your boy to a day of snowboarding.

How's his wrists doing now?

Mar 06, 2011
My 16 year old has rocking climbing issues too
by: Mary

Hi Josh,
I have a 16 year old as well, who started climbing 3 x a week, sometimes 4, but for only 2 or hours at a time. He goes to Planet Granite in SF, and he has had to take a break from it due to his right wrist hurting. He broke his left forearm last winter snow boarding, but that does not seem to bother him at all. It is his right wrist.
He eats plenty of protein I think, but maybe it is the consumption immediately following the climbing that will help.
I am a big proponent of omega -3's too and have my son on a regime here. When he goes to his Dad's for a week or more that regime is not followed.
Of course, he does not want to stop climbing, even if it is temporary. He has no other outlet physically right now, but he might have to find one.
What would a session with you entail? I am a massage therapist too. Perhaps you can show me your techniques and I can treat him myself.

What do you suggest?



Joshua Comments:

Hi Mary.

Sure, I could show you what to do with him.

As far as nutrition...he's sixteen, he's growing, and unless you have him on a diet of organic, pastured meats, eggs, fats, etc, chances are he's not as full of nutrition as he (ideally) should be. Plus, of course, Vitamin D.

If the body doesn't have optimal nutrition, we're not as strong as we could be.

Plus, part of it could just be he's doing a new activity, which is very strenuous on the forearms/hands.

If you look around online, you'll find various info on a schedule of beginning rock climbing, to gradually strengthen your structures over time.

16 year olds don't think about that.....

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