Belay glasses VS Neck strain

Belay Glasses vs. Neck Strain

Neck strain is a common issue that climbers, particularly belayers, encounter during climbing sessions. It occurs when the muscles and ligaments in the neck become fatigued or overworked due to prolonged periods of strain and awkward positioning. In climbing, neck strain primarily stems from the constant need to tilt the head back to maintain visual contact with the climber above. This combined with the added stress the climbing itself does to the neck muscles. 

My worst neck injury came when falling unexpectedly from an indoor boulder problem. This was caused by a hold coming off the wall and I got a whiplash on my neck from the bad fall. After this incident my belay glasses really helped me get back to belaying and climbing faster.

Causes of Neck Strain in Climbing

  1. Belaying Position: When belaying, climbers often find themselves in a position where they have to look upward for extended periods. This posture, with the head tilted back and the neck extended, places excessive stress on the neck muscles and ligaments. The strain intensifies as climbers must hold this position for an extended duration, especially during multi-pitch climbs or when belaying multiple climbers in succession.

  2. Climbing Techniques: Certain climbing techniques and moves can increase neck strain. For example, when climbers are required to look upward while performing moves such as stemming or mantling, the neck is placed under additional stress. These maneuvers often require climbers to strain their necks to maintain visual contact with their intended handholds or footholds.

  3. Continuous Visual Monitoring: Climbers, especially belayers, need to maintain a constant visual connection with the climber they are belaying. This involves continuously looking upward, tracking the climber’s movements, and ensuring a safe belay. The repetitive motion of looking upward for an extended period can lead to muscle fatigue and strain in the neck.

  4. Lack of Proper Technique: Novice climbers, who may not be aware of proper body positioning and ergonomics, are more prone to neck strain. Inexperienced belayers may unintentionally maintain poor head and neck posture, resulting in increased strain on the neck muscles.

Effects of Neck Strain in Climbing

  1. Discomfort and Pain: Neck strain can cause varying degrees of discomfort and pain. Climbers often experience soreness, stiffness, and aching in the neck and upper back muscles. These symptoms can affect the climber’s performance, concentration, and enjoyment of the climbing experience.

  2. Reduced Focus and Concentration: The physical discomfort caused by neck strain can divert a climber’s attention from the task at hand. Instead of focusing on the climb, climbers may find themselves preoccupied with managing the discomfort in their necks. This distraction can impair their ability to maintain proper technique, assess risks, and react to changes in climbing conditions promptly.

  3. Increased Risk of Accidents: Neck strain can compromise a climber’s safety by limiting their range of motion and reducing their peripheral vision. When climbers are unable to turn their heads easily or look around, they may miss crucial cues and hazards that could lead to accidents. Reduced situational awareness heightens the risk of falls, collisions, and other climbing-related mishaps.

  4. Long-term Musculoskeletal Issues: Chronic neck strain, if left unaddressed, can lead to long-term musculoskeletal issues. Prolonged stress on the neck muscles and ligaments can result in muscular imbalances, reduced flexibility, and even structural changes in the spine. These issues can further contribute to chronic pain, restricted mobility, and potential injuries down the line.

By understanding the causes and effects of neck strain in climbing, climbers can take proactive measures to prevent and alleviate this common issue. Belay glasses offer a practical solution, reducing strain and enabling climbers to maintain a comfortable and safe climbing experience.

>>Check out our review of the best belay glasses here! <<

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