Low-Back Pain : Injury Prevention for climbers

Low-back pain is more common than you might think among climbers. It starts as a nuisance. Maybe only a pain you feel while driving to the crag or after a hard day’s climbing. Then it builds and starts to ache throughout the day. And eventually can limit your climbing. You have stretched, foam-rolled, and performed more crunches than you can believe. But it doesn’t seem to go away. What’s going on? Why do you hurt?

It is best to think of low-back injuries as falling into two categories. Flexion (forward bending) and extension (backbending). A simple way of looking at it is that flexion injuries compress the disks in the back while extension injuries compress the joints. Flexion injuries often present with pain while lying on your stomach, standing, or backbending. Meanwhile, extension injuries cause pain with sitting and forward bending.

Low-back pain : adjust your movement on the rock

By knowing which category of low-back pain you’re experiencing, you can better adjust your movement on the rock to minimize injury. Once you adjust your climbing movement to minimize stress on your back, you need to learn how to train your core in a neutral position to mirror how you use it while climbing. So don’t go out and do 100 crunches or superman backbends. These exercises compress your spine into the extremes of flexion and extension. Instead, correct the imbalances and try the following.


To go further, you will have to learn how to avoid common climbing injuries by strengthening your shoulders, wrists, fingers, hips, knees, ankles, and abs.

About the author

Dr. Jared Vagy, a doctor of physical therapy and an experienced climber, has devoted his career and studies to climbing-related injury prevention, orthopedics, and movement science. He is also a professor at the University of Southern California, an internationally recognized lecturer, and a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist.

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  1. 13 March 2019

    […] look upward. If the thoracic spine is not mobile and it does not extend back enough, the neck and low back have to work harder to make up for it. This may lead to […]

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