Ask Answer Man: Why Do So Many Strong Climbers Have Hunchbacks?

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Why do so many strong climbers have hunchbacks?—Evan R., Kansas City, MO


He can’t help it! He was “Born This Way!” Like one of Lady Gaga’s little monsters or that freaky dude from that movie with Cher. Or Cher. The phenomenon to which you are so insensitively referring is caused by a contracted ligament down the front of the spine, according to Dr. Lisa Erikson, DC, of LifeSport Chiropractic in Boulder, Colorado.

“It’s not enough stretching, particularly of the anterior longitudinal ligament—and bad posture,” she says. “Muscularly speaking, the pectoralis muscles and, most common in climbers, the overly contracted latissimus dorsi—which help rotate the arm, extend the shoulder, and bring the upper arm down to the side—create the forward shift and rounded shoulders. Climbers are more muscle-bound as well, and these tighter and shorter muscles accentuate the problem.”

Lucky for you, though, Dr. Erikson says the issue is entirely preventable and treatable. Seek a physical therapist or chiropractor who can assess the problem and apply pressure with a specially designed orthotic to loosen the area. Got any other weird climbing injuries? Get Dr. Erikson’s book Climbing Injuries Solved.

I climb in the arid West, and I don’t think I’ll ever ice climb. Is it worth the extra scratch to get a dry-treated rope?—Adam C., Billings, MT

Uh, yes. How many gear guides have you glossed over and still not picked up on this essentially a priori truth? I’m going to go over this quickly to make room for other, more pressing questions (I mean just look at poor Lauren’s problem…).

Dry-treated ropes help prevent dirt and other muck from attaching itself firmly to your cord, which would contribute to a more rapid deterioration of the very fibers that suspend you above certain splattery death every time your ill-equipped forearms eject you from the wall to which you helplessly cling. Plus, they feed better through your belay device and feel smoother in your hand.

The only instance in which you should be buying a non-dry-treated rope is if your bank account only allows for whatever crap-deal you find on The Clymb, you van-living hippy. Get it? Everyone? Stop asking about this.

It’s not that I hate children, but they’re everywhere in my gym and typically cause problems. What should I do about this?—Lauren A., Hartford, CT

Most people don’t like to cause others stress or pain. (Some do. My safe word is “potato.”) But that doesn’t mean this doesn’t have the potential to get awkward with mama bear and her cubs. Try a proxy. If you’re half the woman Ann Coulter wishes she was, complain to the gym manager in person. Conversely, if subtlety is more your thing, try the suggestion box. Scribble furiously all the ways in which children incense you without seeming like a truculent pedophobe.

Honestly, though, it’s probably best to deal with it yourself, or you’ll just be angry the rest of your miserable sesh. Try this: “Hey [name of inattentive mother or father], your little one, [name of hell-spawn], keeps wandering into the fall zone of this problem I’m working. I really don’t want to hurt him/her if I fall! [Feign sorrow for snapped kid-bones.] Would you mind making sure he/she doesn’t dart under me when I try it? Thanks!”

If all else fails, apply your own Montessori Method and let the kids learn the gravity of these mistakes for themselves. However, on the advice of my overpaid attorney, I’ll leave it to you to interpret that option.

And other topics…

How can I score some free shoes?Steal them, of course.

What’s the term for sending a route with pre-placed pro?Well, it’s certainly not “sending.”

Can you recommend a good method for marking my gear?Locks of human hair (doesn’t matter whose) tied in elaborate knots.

Got a burning question about climber etiquette, customs, or values? Email