For most climbers, sore arms are a way of life. We wake up with tired limbs that feel tight and useless and hike to the crag where we ask even more from our overused appendages. When they fail us, we hang limply from the end of the rope and curse our arms, blaming our failure directly on them; “Why can’t you hold on!” They can’t hold on, in part, because humans weren’t designed for climbing. Have you ever seen a chimpanzee fall from a tree because he was too pumped?
"Watch me bro, I'm pumped!...PSYCH!" Photo: wallpapersm.com
While we are incredibly adaptable creatures, the act of climbing puts our bodies (arms in particular) through outrageous stresses that will likely catch up with us over time, usually in the form of an injury. But to get better, you have to increase the workload on those arms, make them sore, and let them heal. This is how we get strong. So we go through cycles of training or climbing to make them sore, then let them heal and we come back stronger. This is where the climber walks the fine line. If you overdo it, you get injured and have to take weeks or months of rest to recover at which point you realize you have gotten much weaker.
Needless to say, I was very interested in testing a product that claimed to speed up recovery time, prevent injury, increase range of motion (ROM), and enhance performance. The Armaid is essentially a forearm massager, though it doesn’t ‘massage’ in the traditional sense. I started doing some research on ‘sports massage’ and learned that it’s not just an ‘oooh, thanks for the back rub’ kind of massage. It’s a proven scientific method of breaking up ‘trigger points’ in the muscles, increasing blood flow, neutralizing imbalances, and other scientific jargon, etc. etc. I’m not a scientist and, truthfully, I don’t care how it works as long as it does work. For more in depth analysis of the science involved read ‘Therapy in a Can,’ a DPM training article.
When the Armaid showed up at the door my first reaction was to unleash an onslaught of ‘sex toy’ jokes that are far too filthy to publish here. After the dust settled and my laughter subsided I ran my arm through it a couple times and thought, “That feels good.” But after watching the instructional video I realized that I was doing it wrong. The video offers detailed instructions on how best to use the device and stresses one fact: you are being your own therapist. The Armaid is giving you the power to be your own Physical Therapist, a task that someone else spent years in school studying and that you are trying to mimic with no training. You could pay a PT thousands for regularly scheduled massages or do it yourself with the Armaid. But you have to follow the instructions to a tee and do it right!
The benefits of the device are many and I wanted to address them all in our detailed review of the product. I also learned that sports massage is not only a way to prevent injury but also a way to increase the speed of recovery from an injury. So I tested it myself then pitched it to an injured friend, Jessa Goebel. Jessa is the founder of Climb-Fit. She offers coaching, clinics, and develops climbing training programs. She’s also a bad-ass, long-time climber. Fortunately for me, she is recovering from an elbow injury.
On my way to order a pizza after climbing at the Red. Photo: filmdrunk.com
First my test. I set off with the Armaid for a ten-day trip to the pumpiest climbing area in the country, The Red River Gorge. Certain to be feeling fatigued at the end of each day, I knew it would be the perfect place to test the benefits of the product. My plan was to use it on only my right arm throughout the trip in an effort to notice a difference between my two arms. I failed. After three days of using the device I started using it on both arms. Here’s why:
At the end of my climbing day I returned to Miguel’s Campground with blasted forearms. You know the feeling if you’ve ever climbed at the Red. My arms were super tight and sore. After just 10 minutes of massage I noticed an enormous difference. My arm immediately lost its tightness. It felt limber and I regained my full range of motion. The difference between my two arms was remarkable. Plus the massage felt great, so I started using it on both thinking, if nothing else, it would help me sleep better instead of waking up frequently from wooden-arm syndrome. When I woke up the next morning I was still sore from the day before. OK, it didn’t work miracles. That was a relief or I would have kicked myself for not using it over the past decade. Did I still fall off my project the next day? Well, no, I sent but who’s to know what role the massage played in that. Of course, long term results can’t be measured in just 10 days nor can its ability to ‘prevent’ injury. How could you ever know, “Well, right then I would have gotten injured but I didn’t because I’ve been massaging!”
So, results of my test are somewhat vague but my impressions are not. Will I continue to use this device? The answer is a resounding YES. The more I learned about sports massage, the more I realized its benefits and believed in the process. The Armaid makes sports massage convenient, it feels good, and who knows…maybe it made me send my project.
Jessa Goebel on Red Rock's classic 5.12d, The Gift.
Jessa's right arm is currently stuck in the position seen above.
The results of Jessa’s test were more easily quantified due to the nature of her injury. Oddly, despite years of training and climbing, Jessa’s injury occurred from route-setting at the gym. Too many long hours turning an awkward T-nut wrench left her elbow tissue chronically inflamed and her range of motion drastically decreased. Jessa held her arms straight out in front of her to show me that her left would go perfectly straight while her right stayed slightly bent despite her best efforts to straighten it. After about ten days of use I checked in with Jessa and she addressed two points.
Firstly, she stated that immediately after the massage her arm felt looser and less painful. This basically confirms the same results I felt after use. The day after using the device, her elbow was noticeably less sore than days she didn’t use the device. Secondly, she saw dramatic increases in ROM both immediately following the massage as well as the next day. Jessa’s impressions were that it was definitely helping and speeding her recovery time. She’s continuing to use the Armaid.
Unless you are built like a monkey, I highly recommend using Armaid.
I bopped over to check out the Armaid website and found that Jessa and I weren’t the only climbers using Armaid. There were some good testimonials from other climbers including Red River Gorge guidebook author, Ray Ellington, and pro-climber Chris Sierzant.
So, in summary; I’m convinced of the effectiveness and importance of sports massage. The Armaid makes sports massage easy and convenient and it feels great. Adding this aspect to your training or climbing regimen will likely result in faster recovery, injury prevention, and long term increases in muscular endurance. If you are currently suffering from elbow tendonitis or other soft tissue arm injuries; I would strongly encourage using Armaid based on Jessa’s immediate, positive results.
The only downside is the somewhat heavy price tag of $99.95 for the whole package that includes the Armaid with all the accessories including the instructional DVD. But if you’re currently on the bench waiting to get better and climb again it’s definitely worth it. And if you’re not injured, ask yourself: How important is climbing to you and more importantly, how important is it that you stay healthy enough to enjoy your favorite activity without pain?