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Injuries and Medical Advice

Elbow: Stress Fracture

I use a campus board for a quick pump when time is limited. I also campus easier problems for some added strength. However, lately, after five minutes or so of training, I get this aching along the ulnar side of my forearm.

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I use a campus board for a quick pump when time is limited. I also campus easier problems for some added strength. However, lately, after five minutes or so of training, I get this aching along the ulnar side of my forearm. It feels like my bone is aching. The pain is about halfway between wrist and elbow. It hurts mostly when I am pulling hard, not so much when dead-hanging on jugs. It isn’t too bad at night unless I had an evening session. The pain is there when I am on the problem but it’s when I release the holds that I feel the ache. I had the same pain when I used to do bicep curls at the gym.

Cameron Whitehead | Rumney, NH

Stress fractures are the injuries of cool people, that special breed able to tap dark wells of moonshine mojo to the point that their bones yield under the cumulative and crushing force of full-throttle commitment. Stress fractures are more recalcitrant than politicians from Texas, equally painful, and even less likely to respond in a reasonable manner when under duress.

Time-poor training translates to injury-rich training. You can’t just rock up to the gym for a quick tango with that bush-pig the campus board; it will eat you and not bother to floss. You need to take your time — pick your nose, stare at the new breed of hot chicks that have way more technique than you, comb your eyebrows.

Rather than campus easier problems, use your feet on a more difficult one! Foot free is for those with no left brain. If you don’t have time to train properly, go home and have a beer — it will be better for you.

For the most part, ulna stress fractures occur in the avid weight lifter, so it’s no surprise that you initially felt this at the gym. Exercises such as biceps curls generate enormous stress on the forearm bones, especially the ulna.

As you have noted, pain arises in the mid-ulna shaft, temporarily worsens with exercise, and is often very painful if you suddenly release your grip. Stress fractures in general are acutely sensitive to vibration.

Scans would be great, but there seems little doubt that you are on the wrong end of the bone-stress spectrum. If you are the persnickety type, x-rays may be helpful, but an MRI (among other scans) will be defining.

Absolute rest for a few weeks is paramount, and then adjust your training to minimize stress. Light climbing is fine, but no weights that involve gripping. If you can’t apply a gentle hand brake or the training is still aggravating, then take 10 weeks of absolute rest and start back slowly.

Comfrey cream has been shown to be fairly helpful in fracture healing. And it’s cheap with no adverse side effects.

Most GPs and even physical therapists are unlikely to have heard of an ulna stress fracture, but are certainly capable of recognizing the condition if they follow through with appropriate scans. A sports physician (a specialist in sports medicine) would be preferable.

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