Three at-home treatment devices tested
Although climbing is a full-body exercise, nothing gets more of a workout than your forearm extensors and flexors—the muscles on the inside and outside of the forearm. Every crimp, pinch, jam, and slap employs these muscles, so they are susceptible to overuse injuries like chronic deep muscle soreness, elbow tendonitis, and compartment syndrome.
Three forearm therapy devices designed to address these exact issues have recently hit the market. As a Certified Advanced Rolfer who’s been in the therapy game for eight years, I rounded up seven testers that included climbers with issues ranging from simple training fatigue to lowgrade tendonitis. To get the most out of each product, we watched the instructional CD that came with the device or the how-to video posted on the manufacturer’s website. We also discovered that no one device was perfect at everything; some were best suited for specific ailments. With this in mind, we asked testers to consider two therapeutic traits in addition to their personal healing goals: how well a device relieved general muscle soreness, the kind you’d feel after a day of hard climbing; and whether the device could help eradicate knots or trigger points associated with chronic pain and tendonitis. Editor’s note: If you are unsure about the severity of your condition, seek out a professional health care provider for a comprehensive treatment plan.
ARMAID (EDITORS’ CHOICE)
My personal goal was to relieve the mild tendonitis I had been feeling on the backs of each forearm (lateral epicondylitis). Mimicking the advice in a helpful video included with the device (and also found online), I addressed the trigger points associated with my condition and felt immediate mild relief. (It is essential to watch the video before using the Armaid.) I then worked the rest of my forearms to clear their general tightness. After two weeks of using the Armaid at least once a day, the tendonitis was completely gone. Another tester recovering from compartment syndrome surgery to relieve extreme muscle tightness said, “The trigger point release was very useful. My arms felt much looser after about five minutes.” This was also the only device made to address the upper arm (biceps and triceps). What helps make the Armaid particularly effective is that the user controls both the intensity and placement of the pressure. But two testers found the device’s two-handed operation to be challenging when their arms felt especially tired.
User controls pressure and placement
Can use on upper arms
The Roleo therapeutic arm and hand massager lives up to its motto “Roll Your Pain Away” in both design and function. The Roleo features two sturdy, rubber-coated rollers that comfortably sandwich the hand, wrist, or forearm as you roll them back and forth. The top roller is spring-loaded with an adjustable tension setting, which allows the user to dial in the amount of pressure desired. The manufacturer’s website features a quick how-to video. The Roleo was the most massage-like device of these three and best at relieving my forearms of the residual pumped feeling from a long day of climbing or training. One tester stated, “My forearms feel flushed, like their circulation got a boost.” Another positive is it can be operated virtually one-handed. However, most testers found that the relaxing nature of the rollers lacked the pointed intensity needed to address deep trigger points or soften chronically tight muscles.
Overall muscle massage
Can use on hands
Created by physical therapy clinic owner Burke Collins, the ForeArm RX performed well at soothing general post-activity muscle soreness. The user slowly runs his forearm between two rounded wooden rollers on flexible plastic arms, soothing sore muscles. Pressure is adjusted by positioning the rollers at different heights on the plastic arms. The ForeArm RX did a decent job at addressing trigger points, but because of the flexible roller arms, pressure is variable, so some force is lost when trying to loosen hard, chronically tight tissue. Before use, the ForeArm RX is temporarily mounted onto a table with a clamp on the bottom of the product; it’s the only hands-free device reviewed. One tester really appreciated this when he was “zombie-tired” and “craved easy relief.” The website includes videos on the best way to use the device, along with information on therapeutic strengthening exercises, stretches, and recovery strategies.
Soothes general soreness
TESTERS: Michelle Hale, Kestrel Hanson, Connie Horak, Katy Klutznick, Darren Roebuck, Dave Sheldon, David Silverman, Gabe Collins