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Injuries and Medical Advice

Wrist Pain From Cleaning Routes

"Last week I spent several hours aggressively wire-brushing the lichen off a dirty new climb I was bolting. The next day the area about an inch below my hand was swollen and super sore. It still is."

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 Aggressive brushing can cause tendon sheaths, or the tendons themselves, to swell. Illustration by Steve Graepel.Last week I spent several hours aggressively wire-brushing the lichen off a dirty new climb I was bolting. The next day the area about an inch below my hand (sort of where the forearm starts but still maybe considered the wrist) was swollen and super sore. Now that area is still swollen and it hurts to climb slopers. What’s up and how do I treat it?

Jack Johnson/Peoria, Illinois

You either havede Quervain’s tenosynovitis or intersection syndrome. Both are inflammatory conditions that occur on the thumb side of the wrist on the
back of the hand. The former involves the tendon sheaths of two of the thumb muscles, whereas the latter irritation is where these two tendons cross
over two different tendons that extend the wrist.Given a medical degree and a very small ruler you can tell them apart, but why bother when your doctor
will likely give you the same script and the same brace.

For starters, you shouldn’t brush so vigorously when you are physically ill-equipped. Aside from that, you are clearly cleaning too aggressively and don’t
deserve any form of help—let alone for free. Report yourself to a public climbing forum, where you will be chastised and ridiculed by invisible people wearing finger cots so that they can type faster.

Anti-inflammatory meds and immobilization can help if the injury is debilitating. Otherwise stop annoying it (and the ethical evangelists). Massage your
forearm and the swollen bit above your wrist gently a few times a week for 20 minutes for the next month.

If you need to do more brushing you may want to train at home once the swelling has settled down. Try cleaning your car engine with a bunch of flannel
flowers. In the meantime, washing dishes is a no-no. Tell Wifey that you need to strengthen your constitution through rest and happiness. She will
know what to do.

This article appeared in Rock and Ice No. 212 (September 2013).