Fairly or not, we are sometimes called to task for the prices of items we review, and I expect the Armaid will be no exception. But think of it like this - what price could you put on the maintenance and upkeep of a healthy body? Many climbers will have experienced issues with their elbows, be that golfers or tennis, and that's just the start of it - many other afflictions exist! Whether you wish to climb to a certain standard, or if it's just a case of being able to climb at all, there's a chance that the Armaid could help. However, and I'll say this before I begin, if you do have a problem I would highly recommend seeing a physio first for a proper diagnosis. If you don't have a problem, count yourself lucky and consider giving your arms some TLC so you don't get one anytime soon!
So what on earth is it? In a nutshell, this odd-looking contraption is a self-administered massage device to help deal with forearm, wrist, hand and elbow issues.
Moving on to the next inevitable question: why use the Armaid over something you could get for (nearly) free - a tennis ball or a wine bottle? The answer is quite simple - because you simply cannot get enough oomph (technical term) out of those objects: you can with an Armaid. Forearms are tough and the muscles within them tight, so it's very difficult to exert the correct amount of pressure. And even if you did, it's hard to do so in the right places. With the Armaid you get a controlled method of self massage. If you're injured, this could (hopefully) aid your recovery; but if you're just talking injury prevention, strategic use of the Armaid might help maintain or maybe even improve on the status quo.
The Armaid comes in two different forms, the Armaid Package which features three smaller balls and the Armaid Extreme which features a single large ball.
The two three ball adaptors (white and grey) are definitely the entry level to Armaid use. Whilst they can be used aggressively, I would urge caution for anyone using the Armaid for the first time simply because, if you're anything like me, your forearms probably haven't received a massage ever before; as such they're going to be tight, and trust me - overdoing it (i.e. massaging to the point of actual pain) will put you out of action for a good day or two. In general, the three ball adaptors are best for general massage and warming your muscles up (i.e. circulation), and doing some mild trigger point release. Of the two, I much preferred the firmer white balls, as they seem to have much more of an impact on my forearms. The grey are a little softer and stickier, which makes momentum hard to gain - plus you lose that little bit of tension. In light of this around 99% of my self massage with the Package has been using the white balls, simply because I find it easier to generate the momentum (thus promoting circulation) and also to hit the trigger points.
Once you become more familiar, or a little looser, the Extreme really comes into its own, particularly for a robust set of climber's forearms. This is available separately or as a part of its own kit. The larger ball can be used for more general massage, but makes a real difference when searching out those tight spots (aka. trigger points). In fact, this is where I need to confess that I didn't actually read any of the instructions or watch any of the videos when first using the Armaid - something that definitely hindered the effectiveness of my use of the product, and the quality of the massage it provided. As a result of this I would like to emphasise in no uncertain terms: WATCH THE INSTRUCTIONAL FILMS. Yes, they may seem like a commercial from one of those American shopping channels, but they really do contain a wealth of information that will benefit you in a great many ways.
Unlike many other self help items I've bought over the years (e.g. Powerfingers, the 'Back Nobber', Foam Rollers etc...), I have found the Armaid easy to use - and thus I use it. Rather than finding excuses not to, I actually find reasons to use it simply because the experience is satisfying. In the instructional videos they reference it being a kind of 'oooh' pain rather than a 'ahhh' pain, which summarises my own feelings nicely - use of the Armaid is a positive thing both during and after. In addition to that, getting into the habit of using it whilst sitting in front of the TV has become a standard procedure. Over the course of a 30 minute program you can warm your muscles up, get the circulation going, search out those trigger points, switch arms, and then you're done and dusted for the night.
Doing this should promote recovery; however, it's worth mentioning that I'm (thankfully) not injured - as such these words are no doubt nice to read but ultimately meaningless. In fact, that's part of the issue with injury isn't it - you never know how close you are to it until it's upon you. As such, I did a quick shout out on the UKC Facebook Page for people who had experience with an actual injury - and who should get back to me, but GB Youth Team Coach Ian Dunne.
RG: Thanks for agreeing to do the Q&A, I think it'll add to the review as it's a real life case study. I also think you hit the nail on the head with your comments regarding the price of the Armaid vs. the price of a Physio. Whilst the diagnosis and involvement of a Physio can't be replaced, it can be helped along by pro-active stretching and massage whilst at home.
ID: I fully agree that a good diagnosis is ultimately the key in fixing any injury - but the physio / rehab is then the important part. This is where having a home massage device you can do at any convenient time is better that visits to a physio twice per week.
RG: What was wrong with your arm/elbow?
ID: I hurt my elbow in April trying Herbie at Malham. Initially I didn't think I had done anything as it was a dull pain in the flexor muscles probably 100mm from the elbow. I diagnosed myself (rookie mistake!) as a strain in the muscle and carried on climbing til it got so bad that holding a full bottle of wine was nearly impossible with my right hand!
RG: Who did you go to see?
ID: I eventually went to see a Sports Therapist, Phill Macdonald at The Climbing Hanger in Liverpool, who correctly diagnosed Tennis Elbow; I also got a physio consultation through the NHS but that took 6 weeks to come through.
RG: What did they recommend?
ID: I tried all the tried and tested remedies, extensor exercises eg holding a hammer and turning from side to side and lots of theraband work etc. And I did the exercises Phill had recommended. However by October I still had a problem, it was slightly better than in July when I had actually gone to seek some advice but my summer was ruined. I bumped into Simon Tilley training for the BLCC's and he suggested an Armaid. On to TCA's website I went and within four weeks my elbow was 98% fixed and by Christmas at 68 weeks it was completely sorted out.
RG: How did you go about using the Armaid (e.g. general massage vs. trigger point massage, frequency of use etc…)?
ID: I enjoyed teaching myself to use the Armaid, I found the CD I got with it good and I soon found how hard I could squeeze the clamp together without brining tears to my eyes! I used to do 50 runs through on each arm. Even though my left arm wasn't injured it was a good way of timing my rest on the right arm and I did that four times watching the TV each night. I tried to get right into the pain point but probably only 10% of my runs were really painful - I guess I wimped on the other 90% a bit.
I continued to use the Armaid every time I climbed for about the next 12 months as a sort of after climb forearm massage, again doing 200 run throughs in blocks of 50.
I found it really easy to get on with, light enough to take when travelling and it was very successful for me.
RG: Finally, did it work???
ID: The fact it fixed me meant it was a bargain. Ask my wife - she would have paid double as I am such a grump to live with when I have an injury! It is pricy, however there are a lot of parts to mould and it seems very durable and as I said it's only the cost of two physio sessions.
Ian Dunne has been climbing for 43 years and coaching for 15.
He has over 150 first ascents to his name, all in a variety of disciplines, including bouldering a long time before it was considered a separate sport. These days he is predominantly a sport climber, still getting up 8as at 56, but acknowledging that now his elbows are better he's got plans to climb harder throughout 2018.
Coach and Manager of the GB Junior Lead Team for the last 12 years, Ian has been involved in climbing competitions since 1989. He also runs a variety Coach Education Workshops for the BMC and Mountain Training.
As per my opening paragraph, I have no doubt that there will be some who remain sceptical about the price of the Armaid; however, if you are in genuine need of rehabilitation then I suspect the cost will be easily justified. If you're not injured, but aware that your body needs maintenance and upkeep, it would also be well worth considering. For me, the blend of the Standard and Extreme adaptors was invaluable, but obviously you could purchase either/or depending on your budget.
The Armaid is available in the UK exclusively through TCA...
The Climbing Academy say:
Armaid Massage Package - £90
The Armaid Massage Package contains everything you need to get you started. It comes with the standard firm 'white roller', a softer 'grey roller', an adjustable leg strap, instruction DVD and a 10 year unconditional warranty.
An additional 'Foam Roller' and 'Extreme Roller' can be purchased separately to expand the functionality of the Armaid
Armaid Extreme - £65
The NEW Armaid Extreme is a stripped back, no-nonsense, version of the original Armaid Massage Tool, ideal for those with well-worked, heavily muscled arms. The standard roller attachment has been replaced with the lacrosse-ball-like 'extreme roller' allowing the user to excert intense, deep tissue massage on the tight muscles of the forearm, wrist, hand, elbow, bicep and tricep, so often over-worked by climbing training.
The benefits of massage for recovery are well documented and this extremely hard, ~40mm diameter roller enables the user to apply effective trigger point therapy and cross-fibre friction at home or on the move.