I first came across Armaid when I saw a picture that old friend and top Australian climber, Rob Le Breton, posted on Facebook. It looked like Rob had been attacked with a meat tenderizer, his forearms black and blue, and it wasn’t too far from the truth!
Rob's forearms after initially using Armaid. This flushing reaction is the start of the healing process in very extreme cases and will not happen to most people. My arms reacted in exactly the same way on the very first use of Armaid. Image LeBreton collection.
Having asked Rob about the treatment, and investigated the healing philosophies of Terry Cross, physio and Armaid designer/founder, I ordered my pseudo victorian-torture device from the States.
My own elbow issues started a few years into my climbing career, however the seeds were sown much earlier. As a youth I disliked most team games and managed to persuade my sports teachers that I should be one of the few boys in my school to take gymnastics lessons. After school I would spend 2 or 3 evenings a week at boxing club, doing intense circuit training, weights, gymnastic ring work and sparring. Flexibility was never mentioned and that ‘hole of knowledge’ continued through the weights program I continued with after leaving school.
At 19 years old I was bitten by the climbing bug, and being both compact and strong, found I could do multiple one-armers with ease from the outset, which, being young and eager to show off, became a standard and well used party trick. Constant arm-wrestling much bigger guys for pints at our local Exeter real-ale haunt was where I first started noticing problems with my forearms. I would get intense discomfort in the belly of the bicep/tricep area that lasted for days on end, and being young and naïve it was ignored as much as possible!
The problems really became significant with my move to Bristol, a dedicated climbing Centre offering year round training facilities and very psyched partners such as Avon legends Dave Ardron and Lucy Creamer. During the winters every evening was spent indoors training without structure, whist weekends became trials of perseverance, battling Cheddar specific sub zero temperature sidepulls and undercuts.
Winters were spent in agony, often unable to climb for weeks at a time, and I was constantly aware that something was very wrong. A mix of slopers, compression and steepness created unfavorable conditions but there was always a bright light at the end of March. The discomfort generally subsided in spring when plastic and wood were left behind for the lure of salty Pembroke air. Lower intensity and variation of movement enabled plenty of endurable quality climbing.
Finally though even summertimes suffered and the pain became a constant in my climbing, the intensity had to be repeatedly reduced to manage the affliction. A physio prognosis was of inflamed bicep tendons, though I gave up that avenue after multiple treatments of tendon massage and ultrasound elicited neither discomfort nor positive result. Although also suffering with self diagnosed golfers and tennis elbow, working on these failed to trigger any pain response from the critical areas. Despondent and out of ideas, I gave up climbing.
Returning to rock after the best part of a year off, there was little change. I resigned myself to not pushing at all and just bumbled along for a number of years. Then came TCA, and the psych returned along with the construction process. Unfortunately so too did the discomfort, the intensity of both climbing and constant routesetting was too much - one was bearable but two was too far. A few months after a nasty mbt accident on a double saw my femur break into a treble, and the elbows garnished a welcome rest.
Finally scouring the web and reading through Dave McLeod’s blogs informed me of brachioradialis tendinitis, and it instantly struck home that an acute version of this was the cause of my pain. In both arms these muscles were rock solid and knotted with grisly lumps of tissue. Back to Facebook and I could see instantly from the picture of Rob’s that he was hitting the same trigger points that I needed to get to.
A second operation on my leg was a catalyst to sort out my elbow-ails. I would be off impact sport for the best part of 6 months, no climbing and no immediate routesetting. I enlisted the help of Nina Leonfellner, top Bristol physio, who started diagnosing and treating my forearms. Nina created what seemed like endless lists of exercises and started dry needle treatment on my triggerpoints. Meanwhile I gave the Armaid a good seeing to everynight, slowly breaking down the hard tissue and working the nasty lumps into submission. Unbelievably in a short space of time, tissue that had been like rock and under tension for many years was turning soft and supple, and as my massage therapist said recently, I had the forearms of a normal person again.
I am back climbing and routesetting again now and have been slowly getting fitter whilst increasing intensity and duration of climbing sessions. A lapse in my antagonist exercises led to a little discomfort after two days hard setting and forerunning but that has settled down again now.
My case is one of extreme tendonosis, and it’s hard to separate the three forms of treatment in diagnosing a positive recovery. But we were all so impressed with the results that we decided we would be mad not to try and bring Armaid into the UK to benefit others with similar afflictions. The relief it has helped provide is priceless.
£95 may seem a lot of money to some but it’s a real bargain, less than the price of seeing a therapist three times. With import duty and shipping from America my Armaid was £140. It is incredibly effective at softening hard tissue, working trigger points and then maintaining good muscular condition. Although designed for forearms, my bicep and tricep heads now get regularly worked, as do my calves and IT bands. It used to be very difficult to apply self-massage and trigger point therapy, but Armaid makes it easy and almost enjoyable.
My Armaid now goes in my rucksack everywhere and has become an integral part of my post climbing and routesetting routines.