Rock Climbing cause arthritis

Physical stress on the body can cause several diseases. Rock climbing is also a hobby that puts immense strain on the body if done improperly.

But, can rock climbing cause arthritis is still an unanswered question.

Earlier studies showed that rock climbing could increase the chances of arthritis if we overdo it. Recent research by the University of Washington and the University of Tennessee negates the concept.

It says that cautious rock climbing increases the bone mass and enables the rock climbers to accommodate mechanical stress on fingers and joints. Before taking a plunge into the benefits and harms of rock climbing, we should know what arthritis is.

What is Arthritis?

Can rock climbing cause arthritis

Arthritis is the term that refers to the inflammation and degeneration of joints. Physical activities that put enormous stress on the body are the primary cause of this disease.

Rock climbing is one of those physical activities that tweak almost all the joints in the body leading to Osteoarthritis.

New climbers are more prone to arthritis because they lack the proper climbing techniques, and their fingers and hands cannot adapt to the stress they have to face during the activity.

Can Rock Climbing Cause Arthritis?

Rock climbing has gained popularity as a hobby over the past few decades. Therefore, injuries related to climbing have also increased.

Nowadays, rock climbers seem more concerned about bone modelling and joint issues because frequent climbing shows adverse effects on joints health.

During this activity, climbers put abnormal stress on the same joints again and again. Age factor is also another critical factor behind arthritis. Usually, aged people suffer from this disease more than young ones.

Most people confuse the terms of arthritis and Osteoarthritis. Arthritis is a broader term and is severe as compared to Osteoarthritis because it affects the joint capsules. On the other hand, Osteoarthritis affects cartilage first.

Thus the answer to the question can rock climbing cause arthritis is no.

However, Osteoarthritis may be the result of climbing in many cases.

Rock climbers can reduce the chances of their suffering from the disease by undergoing individual training sessions. The intensity of the degenerative condition is different in different styles of climbing.

Almost all the styles of climbing involve progressing up without using mechanical devices and protection. Instead, rock climbers drag their bodies against rocks by putting pressure on their fingers and joints.

As a result of this immense pressure, the cartilage of joints breaks down, and the bones rub against one another, causing inflammation in the joints.

Parts of Body Prone to Arthritis in Rock Climbing

Climbing, in all its forms and styles, is full of injury risks. The following are the parts of the body that are under continuous stress while climbing and suffer from arthritis.

1 Hands and Fingers

hand finger joint anatomy for rock climbing

If you ask anybody, the question can rock climbing cause arthritis; the answer would be yes. The person will refer to the hand and finger injuries first and then to the rest of the body parts.

The climbers without any prior training often damage their finger joints because of unphysiological use.

There are two kinds of finger joints, the PIP joint (proximal interphalangeal) and DIP joint (distal interphalangeal). PIP joints are always at higher risk because of hyperflexion. It usually happens when there are small handholds. If unattended, it can cause capsular swelling, severe pain, and pressure during movement of joints.

The climbers who overdo climbing suffer from irreversible swelling of joints.

Rock climbers can overcome this injury by reducing the frequency of climbing. The change in climbing habits can also prove fruitful in this regard.

The experts recommend even to stop the training during injury. However, they can start active retraining after complete recovery from the disease.

Rock climbers can also use nonsteroidal medicine in case of severe pain. Nowadays, various physiotherapy techniques are conventional to help the climbers recover from this injury.

2 Wrist

Rock climbing wrist injury

Many climbers will tell you about the risks of wrist injuries when asked the question, can rock climbing cause arthritis.

Holding a grip exerts a lot of pressure on wrist flexors. Compression of muscles compress the nerves and cause carpal tunnel.

Climbing without any technique can cause wrist injuries because the climbers have to hold grips very often.

Wrist joint may swell in case of continued climbing. Cessation in climbing, reduction of training, and use of nonsteroidal medication provide quick relief from this injury.

3 Elbow

rock climbers elbow

The elbow joint is another crucial joint for holding and grasping during rock climbing.

Non-stop rock climbing puts much strain and cause four soft tissue injuries of elbow and joints and result in arthritis. Some rock climbers give an affirmative reply to the question can rock climbing cause arthritis, because they suffer from elbow pain, swelling, and injuries due to continuous climbing.

It occurs because elbows and hands extend to push the body higher while climbing. Conservative therapy, like icing, physical therapy, and the use of nonsteroidal medication, can provide relief from this injury.

The climbers may also need immobilization of elbow joints in some instances. The rock climbers can also minimize elbow injuries by ensuring the balance of flexor and extensor muscles.

4 Shoulder

rock climbing shoulder injury

One of the most common injuries rock climbers suffer during their career is the shoulder injuries.

Almost all the climbing involves keeping arms above the head to pull the bodyweight upwards. It puts much pressure on shoulders and elbows. The rotator cuff in most of the climbers gets injured because of this stress.

In rare cases, the rock climbers may have to face shoulder dislocation. The rock climbers can overcome this injury by rest and physiotherapy. Can rock climbing cause arthritis is, therefore, an easily answerable question for the rock climbers suffering from this injury?

5 Knee

rock climbing knee injury

The rock climbers may also have to suffer from knee injuries because knee joints are crucial for moving the body up.

Sometimes, the climbers have to pull their body upwards from such a position that results in higher hyperflexion in the knee. Severe injuries occur when rotational stress and load suppresses the meniscus. The result is swelling, pain, and effusion that make walking difficult for the rock climbers.

There are separate tests for investigation and treatment of the meniscus injuries. It is also worth mentioning that conservative therapy is not at all suitable for meniscus injuries.

However, some surgical techniques and arthroscopic therapy are useful to overcome this injury. Therefore, keeping in view the knee injuries can rock climbing cause arthritis seems quite right and logical.

6 Feet

rock climbing foot injury

Feet are among those body parts that have a massive contribution in making a man a successful rock climber. After hands, feet are under much stress during climbing and are more prone to injuries.

Most of the rock climbers use climbing shoes to avoid arthritis and other foot injuries. Soft tissues and interphalangeal joints are usually under high stress if there is not enough space to hold the foot. Rock climbers also suffer from an ankle sprain when they fall while hanging with the rope. 

Physiotherapy, proper rest, and the use of nonsteroidal medication provide rapid relief from foot injuries.

Is Rock Climbing Good or Bad for Arthritis?

Researchers put forward contradictory answer to the question can rock climbing cause arthritis because many physiotherapists recommend climbing for those who have arthritis. They are of the view that rock climbing increases the flexibility in hip muscles and joints.

However, rock climbing seems but unimaginable when you have arthritis. But, still practicing and exercising is suitable for the patients. The flexibility of the joints and muscles is always crucial for movement.

Is Rock Climbing Good or Bad for Aged?

Physiotherapists agree to the fact that rock climbing is not suitable for aged because the injuries take considerably longer time to recover.

Still, there are a few that support the idea that rock climbing strengthens the tendons of the fingers. On the other hand, many oppose the concept because rock climbing causes injuries to the finers and joints. Due to a weak immune system in old age, the body cannot resist to the damages, and the situation begins to worsen if left unattended.

A regular and organized training approach is essential for aged climbers to keep climbing at the age of 60 or 70. Without proper exercising and training, rock climbing can become an un-imaginable and unhappy experience for you.


After reading the entire discussion, we can answer the question can rock climbing cause arthritis. Rock climbing, whether it is for fun and enjoyment or some purpose, has its charms.

Physiotherapists consider it beneficial for muscles and joints.

However, continuous climbing without proper training may damage the tendons of the fingers. Rock climbing hurts those body parts that come under stress.

Physiotherapists even recommend it for aged people if they undergo an organized training. You can recover from injuries by changing the styles as well as habits of climbing.

Proper rest and use of nonsteroidal medicines can also prove useful. But, it is an admitted fact that climbing enhances your confidence to a great extent.

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