I injured my elbow or forearm while bouldering (climbing at relatively short heights without a rope). I have never had an elbow or arm injury and need some advice on a) what I may have done and b) how to manage it while it heals.
gone to a doctor, x-rays were taken, as expected the arm is not broken, nothing further was done at the doc's office. I think it was a purely rotational injury, not compressional. Plenty more details under the cut.
First and foremost, I understand that none of you are my doctor and nothing you respond with should be taken as medical opinion or advice.
Here's the (long, sorry) story:
Friday, 6/27, Bouldering at a gym, about at ~20 ft off the ground. Reaching for a difficult final move, got the hold with my left hand but was off balance and started rotating to my right off of the wall. For a very brief period almost all of my weight was on my left hand on the hold as my body was rotating out from the wall. Let go of the hold and dropped to the mat. Everything landed okay, but because I was still turning I put my left hand down on the mat to keep my balance. There was very little weight on the hand, but my arm/elbow definitely twisted, and I picked my hand up as soon as it felt wrong but clearly didn't completely avoid damage. I absolutely do not think there is any damage from compression, just rotation--I barely put any weight on the left hand at all, it was only to stabilize.
It hurt pretty sharply immediately, but I didn't feel a pop or anything obvious, just some fairly sharp pain that lasted maybe a minute. It calmed down really quickly. No obvious bruising and no swelling as far as I could tell, but it's difficult for me to measure because my right (dominant) forearm is normally kind of significantly bigger than my left, so who even knows if my left swelled at all.
I kept climbing (possibly like an idiot), but it didn't hurt at all. Iced it when I got home and took Ibuprofen, little bit of pain but nothing serious. The next day I'm bouldering outside with no incidents, pretty long day of climbing (maybe 4 hours total of serious work). It didn't even really hurt except for a couple of times and it was minor. The day after that I climb at the gym and it starts to hurt, but again, nothing too terrible. However, the day after THAT it was really angry, so I'm like yeah I fucked up and decide to baby it (still icing, anti-inflammatories, trying to immobilize it as much as possible).
I baby it the entire week. I mostly only piss it off in my sleep--tried wearing a brace (too uncomfortable/compresses too much) and a sling (took it off in my sleep literally every time). I go climbing a week from the initial incident (7/4) again but I'm nice to it. It is a very brief session as it starts to hurt again. A couple of days later (7/8) I go to the doctor, get the x-rays, they're fine, the advice is basically what you'd give for any ligament tear (R.I.C.E.).
I'm not climbing on it anymore, but Saturday (7/12) I went on a 33 mile bike ride. Didn't think this would bother it to much as I wasn't exactly using it, but yesterday it was probably the angriest at me it as ever been. I sat in on the couch all day and tried not to use it.
Now it's stiff and painful with the typical symptoms it's had the whole time, but most concerning to me is the fact that my left hand feels kind of numb/fingers seem swollen. It's only been 6 days since I saw the doc but I feel like it just keeps getting worse.
I marked up this diagram with where the pain is.
SEVERE pain (7-8/10?) when flexed beyond 90 degrees, getting progressively worse as you bend it more. I cannot bring food up to my mouth and putting my hair in a ponytail is very difficult. Putting on a bra is terrible. Full extension of the arm hurts too. PULLING things toward myself (doors mostly) is VERY painful as well (7-8/10), I think the act of gripping things while the arm is extended and trying to pull inwards makes it like 5x worse. It's easy to tweak even while doing things like typing. The limit of what position it likes to be in and one that pisses it off seems to walk a very thin line. After sharp pain a more dull pain usually follows. Lately the dull pain is constant. It also feels just generally stiff and unhappy. Now
my main concern is what feels like slight numbness in that hand. I'm not sure if this could be a side effect of a 33 mile bike trip, though.
What I've been doing for it:
I've been treating it like what I know to do for a ligament tear. Resting, icing in 15 minute increments, but not doing any heat at all. Ice feels nice, I haven't tried heat. It's hard to elevate and immobilize, but I am trying to keep it immobile, which isn't working all that well. Ibuprofen honestly doesn't seem to do a damn thing. The doc told me I can take 400-600 mg 3x per day if I want as long as I am not doing it on an empty stomach but it didn't help at all on pain so I cut back to 400 mg 2x per day maximum, usually only taking the 400 mg in the morning.
So I guess my main questions are as follows:
1) Do you have any idea what might be wrong/how concerned should I be?
2) Do you have any advice for longer term treatment (if likely something minor--small tenon/ligament tear etc) or short term treatment while I try to figure out when I can get to a doctor?
3) If I should be keeping it as immobile as possible, do you have any advice for how to do this (esp. overnight)?
4) If you think I do need to go to the doctor again, who should I ask for? They keep saying they can get me to an osteologist but I thought that was pointless because there's no indication it's broken?
Thanks for any help you can give. The joint and forearm muscles/ligaments/tendons are more complicated than I can figure out and I have no firsthand experience with injuries to them.