/ Why does climbing make your fingers fat?!

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EmSB - on 28 Feb 2014
Has anyone else noticed that their fingers have got fatter from climbing lots? I can hardly fit my rings on any more because my fingers have got so much bigger and my boyfriend's fingers are really quite big from all the climbing! I was wondering if any one knows why this is?
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??
Lukem6 - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to EmSB: tendons are muscles so yes and bune thickening and increased blood flow... the human body adapts

EmSB - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Lukem6:

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...!
Dave Garnett - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Lukem6:
> (In reply to EmSB) tendons are muscles

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.
Donnie - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Lukem6:

Are tendons muscles?
bluebealach - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to EmSB:

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!!
@ndyM@rsh@ll - on 28 Feb 2014
Dave Garnett - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to bluebealach:
> (In reply to EmSB)
>
> 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.
Lukeva - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to EmSB:

> (the muscles which move them are all located in the hand)

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!

Lukeva - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Lukem6:

> tendons are muscles

Lol

Alun - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to EmSB:

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!
carl dawson - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to EmSB:

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!
cb_6 - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Lukem6:

> tendons are muscles

Tendons are tendons. Muscles are muscles.
Paul Evans - on 01 Mar 2014
In reply to EmSB:

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.
Paul
RupertD - on 01 Mar 2014
In reply to:

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.

Graham Hoey - on 01 Mar 2014
In reply to RupertD:

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.
ow arm - on 01 Mar 2014
In reply to Graham Hoey:

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
Ann S on 01 Mar 2014
In reply to Graham Hoey:

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.

Simos on 01 Mar 2014
In reply to EmSB:

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 :)
sianabanana - on 01 Mar 2014
In reply to EmSB:

BBC Programme - The incredible human hand
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01mv2md

They do test and scans on climbers hands - give it a watch.
ads.ukclimbing.com
davidalcock - on 01 Mar 2014
In reply to EmSB:

It's mostly bone-thickening and tendon repair. But don't climb with rings: degloving is nasty.
Graham Hoey - on 02 Mar 2014
In reply to Ann S:

Hi Ann,
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?
Ann S on 02 Mar 2014
In reply to Graham Hoey:

That's great then Graham. Youre good for another 40 years. :)
Graham Hoey - on 02 Mar 2014
In reply to Ann S:

Thanks Ann, unfortunately I'm just recovering from a prolapsed disc. If one thing doesn't get you, another will!
Ann S on 02 Mar 2014
In reply to Graham Hoey:

Oooer!! Chance to write another book perhaps?
Graham Hoey - on 02 Mar 2014
In reply to Ann S:

I think I'll give it a bit of a break :)
Bulls Crack - on 02 Mar 2014
In reply to EmSB:

Never made any difference to mine...

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