/ Why does climbing make your fingers fat?!
There aren't any muscles in our fingers (the muscles which move them are all located in the hand) so it can't be due to muscle growth... Could it be tendon thickening? I'm just curious as I don't understand why our fingers would increase in size due to using them lots if there aren't any muscles in them??
Thanks for this. Does this mean that if you stop climbing your fingers will get thinner again? I plan to carry on climbing lots so think maybe I need to get some bigger rings...!
Well, no, they're not. But they do thicken a bit and more importantly develop more bone around their insertions. Your fingers don't hypertrophy anything like as much as the flexor muscles in your forearms but, on the other hand, I suspect that the size increase (especially the bony part) probably isn't completely reversible.
Are tendons muscles?
Fingers/hands tend to get swollen during the cold weather when I'm out on the hills or walking the dog on the sea wall during the winter. Not sure its anything to do with climbing unless yours are swelling during summer climbs as well.
I think its due to blood flow to the extremities in cold weather but no doubt someone will be along to tell you definitively!!
> Fingers/hands tend to get swollen during the cold weather when I'm out on the hills or walking the dog on the sea wall during the winter. Not sure its anything to do with climbing unless yours are swelling during summer climbs as well.
Actually, I think that inflammation has a lot to do with it, especially if it's after climbing intensively as the OP says.
Maybe some small ones, but most of your grip, pinch, crimp strength is generated in the forearm flexors. Look at top climbers forearms, wiry as hell!
Any long term increase in the width of your fingers is likely to be very small - tendons don't gain bulk anywhere near as much as much muscles do.
However one likely cause for fatter fingers is short term swelling. After a heavy climbing session, all the tissues of the finger (including the skin) are a bit trashed, and hence can swell quite a bit. The effect is particularly noticeable in beginners, or people who come back to climbing after a long break. For regular climbers its still noticable, but less so.
I find that after a heavy session of bouldering my wedding ring is a bit trickier to push on, but the next day it's all back to normal. In contrast, when I started climbing again a few months ago (after a year's break) my hands were swollen for several days afterwards!
Over the (almost) 50 years I've been climbing. I'd estimate that my second (PIP) finger joints are now 50 percent wider. Certainly my wedding ring has had to be enlarged substantially in the last decade. And I tend to avoid finger-jamming cracks these days! My feeling is that it is bone growth as an adaptation to the additional stresses of climbing several times a week. Apart from a few aches if I train every day, they are (relatively) pain-free despite their unattractive appearance!
Tendons are tendons. Muscles are muscles.
I'm with Carl on this one - after many years climbing my finger joints have actually grown wider, and I have had to have wedding ring resized. Funny how the body adapts.
The forces of the ligaments and pulleys on the bone causes both the bone and the soft tissue to adapt by growing thicker and stronger. This makes the fingers thicker, especially around the joints. If you stop climbing, over time, the adaptations will gradually revert.
Yep, I've had my fingers x-rayed a few times and there are bone spurs growing alongside my joints after 40+ yrs of climbing.
handy info (pardon the pun)
Tendon is tissue that connects soft tissue i.e. muscle to hard tissue i.e. bone
Ligament is tissue that connects one hard tissue to another
The thickening of the middle PIP joint may be what I think is referred to as a Bouchards node. My right middle finger joint is pretty massive and refuses to straighten properly.
I am sure there is a significant element of inflammation but it can't be just that as my wedding ring still doesn't fit anymore even when I don't climb for a long time. Or maybe It's because I've put on a stone last year :)
It's mostly bone-thickening and tendon repair. But don't climb with rings: degloving is nasty.
They certainly look like Bouchard's Nodes but there is no pain and the consultant who looked at them said there was no sign of arthritis?
That's great then Graham. Youre good for another 40 years. :)
Thanks Ann, unfortunately I'm just recovering from a prolapsed disc. If one thing doesn't get you, another will!
Oooer!! Chance to write another book perhaps?
I think I'll give it a bit of a break :)
Never made any difference to mine...
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