Finger Injuries are almost certainly the most common injuries climbers face. In this article, climbing coach Robin O'Leary and physiotherapist Nina Leonfellner look at ways to treat and prevent damaged fingers...
Excellent article. I've had a lot of problems with the same finger pulley (A2 middle finger on one hand only) and put it down to all sorts of excuses. Then I had an honest look at my training: I was training tired, bouldering at my limit during pretty-much every session, and on one particular aspect my technique was way off. It was this final one that took me longest to realise but since I corrected it I have been without a pulley injury for the longest time since I started climbing – touch wood).
The aspect of my technique that needed sorting was not crimps – I overhand almost everything – but when pulling up hard on slopers my middle finger began to bend (crimp) whereas the other fingers remained open-hand. As a result, as I moved up on a hold the stress through the middle finger went up loads. The cause of this technique is likely the limited mobility I’ve got in that wrist, having badly-broken the scaphoid a while back. I’ve stretched the hell out of that wrist and now I can open-hand when my chest is level with holds, rather than having to bend my fingers to maintain traction. I’d definitely look hard at your technique if you keep getting injured.
Really interesting article. Very detailed. I'm always amazed on UKC when people post things like 'I've just heard a pop/tear in my finger/hand/arm, can't move it, should I climb and will it be fine etc.....'. Amazed they would rather ask for advise on the internet than go get specialist assessment and treatment.
Good to see things like swollen joints being considered here rather than just pulley injuries as is usually the case.
I suffered from the former and though a good physio has helped me get the fingers back in reasonable shape, I've more or less given up indoor wall climbing as it usually makes the fingers sore (outside is fine usually). I note what the article says about having to re-strengthen fingers however (like hanging off a campus board with the feet on), so perhaps that's what I'd need to do. But then I wouldn't know the best way to go forward and I'd almost need to find a physio-climbing coach as this stage in the treatment seems a bit specialist for just one or the other? Not always that easy to find good knowledge.
In reply to UKC Articles: This is a great article; like the two that came before on shoulders and elbows. Usually you have to find about 5 sources to get all of this together but this lays it all out in one place! Out of interest is there going to be another article about the fingers but focused on the tendons?? I'm asking mostly from a selfish point of view as I have an injury (or several) to my tendons at the moment... If not would the plan/ program of exercises for rehab also be appropriate for people with an injury to their tendons??
In reply to UKC Articles: Very good article and for me, probably like many, quite timely too having recently 'popped' my right hand ring finger (A2). In my case after 4 weeks my finger is still swollen and painful, especially in the morning. The article says that rest is crucial. Just rest? or will, for example, hot and cold treatment make any difference? Or anything else?
I haven't had a scan or seen anyone about this, I'm wondering why is it crucial to get it checked out as soon as possible if the only remedy is rest. Thanks for any advice on getting back to normal asap.
Sorry to hear about your "pop". As you are four weeks into your injury, cold water treatment is a good idea. As the article suggests, you want to be doing this 3 times a day and 3-5 times per week.
Cold water in a bowl with 5-6 ice cubes. Keep it submerged for 5 mins and then take out. Get it warm, keep up your movement and then return to the bowl - repeat.
For a severe sprain/tear, the rest means no climbing. Do not aggravate the injury or worsen it. Even on large holds the A gets a lot of pressure on jugs...this will not do you any favours and if anything, give you more scar tissue which will cause you problems down the line.
Active rest in terms of cold water treatment, and a very light sponge (can get these from hospital/doctors or even use a car sponge). The first port of call is movement. Keep the full movement of your finger in operation (gliders) to make sure the build up of scar doesn't cause trigger finger etc.
The elastic bands and other exercises mentioned in the article are to be done in time as well.
Good luck with the rehab and let me know if you need any further help.
I've a question about terminology in the article. When describing pre-conditions for returning to climbing after rehab the article includes "No pain with any form of gripping/pinching/crimping with hand tools." Does this refer to pain when massaging/touching the injury site? Or is it actual pain while carrying out the activity. I find with pulley strains I usually have no pain while climbing/finger boarding etc, but afterwards the pulley is tender and painful to touch or massage. Any ideas from posters or from the author would be great..
Great article. Two additions I can make. Firstly, you can tape over the knuckles to stop your finger from adopting a crimp position. Effectively stopping the finger from bending. You'll be surprised how little this affects your climbing. This is useful when you want to carry on climbing even though you have injured it, say on a two week holiday and you don't want to stop. Obviously doesn't apply to major rupture. Secondly, you can ice your finger under a cold running tap if you can't be arsed with ice.