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Feel a Pop In Your Finger? Everything You Need to Know About Pulley Injuries

Nov 06, 2022

Climbers tend to have many concerns about different types of injuries related to climbing. Climbing has become a popular professional sport in different parts of the world and with this, there is a rise in the incidents of sports-related injuries. One thing that concerns climbers is the feeling of pop in their pulleys.

What is the “Pop?”

The original pop is often your pulley snapping, essentially, and the medical terminology for this is a “rupture.” That means it's fully torn apart. Usually, when you feel and hear a pop, swelling and “bowstringing” follow. If you don’t know what a bowstringing is, it is when one of those pulleys pops and the flexor tendon doesn't stay as close to the bone as it should, then it “bowstrings” away from the bone.

Oftentimes, you can feel a pop in your finger, and that might just be you popping the knuckles in your joints. As climbers, our finger joints will adapt to climbing and they'll change. In fact, if you look at the climber's fingers who has been climbing for ten years compared to someone who doesn't climb at all, the fingers are very different. Experienced climbers have fingers that can pop much easier than those who don’t have any experience in climbing. 

The Misconception of Popping in Your Fingers

When pulling your fingers apart, you can hear knuckles cracking and you're creating a lengthening of the joint. It creates a pressure that causes a bubble to form and then immediately collapse and you hear that popping sound and feel it. Many people believe that if you do it more often, you're going to develop arthritis and damage your joints. 

This is not necessarily true. As a matter of fact, doing it is not bad for you and it has been proven in some research studies. The results show that people who crack their knuckles didn't manifest acquiring arthritis or damage to their joints. 

Moreover, feeling a pop might be caused by having tight tendons or muscles that are rubbing against the bone, especially if you had a previous injury where that tendon doesn't glide as smoothly as it should. So the thing you can do about it is definitely stretch or work on your mobility to take care of your fingers. 

When Should You Be Concerned? 

If you feel a pop, and it's followed by swelling, pain, and stiffness, and you have difficulty moving your joints, then that will be the time you should reach out to a professional, whether that's a physical therapist or a medical doctor. You need professional help because that could be indicative of a pulley rupture, arthritis, tendinitis, infection, or even a fracture.

Again, when you hear that pop, maybe you automatically associate that with an injury. But, as mentioned earlier, it could just be you cracking your knuckles. So instead of jumping to a conclusion based on what you initially see and feel,  it will still be the best idea to seek professional help and assistance. 

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