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Finger Injury Prevention Tips!

Nov 11, 2021

 As climbers, finger injuries tend to be the most common injury we see. We rely on our grips and finger holds to maneuver us on our routes. This is why it is SO important to maintain strength and mobility even in our wrists and fingers. Most of these finger injuries stem from the interphalangeal joints, as they often cause severe pain if not treated right. 

How can we prevent injuries in the IP joints?

Specifically, the interphalangeal joint. This joint is in between each “knuckle” on your fingers, (except your thumb, which only has 1). The DIP - distal interphalangeal joint is closest to the tip of your finger, the PIP - proximal interphalangeal joint, is the middle joint. The thumb also only has 1 IP joint. 

4 Most Common IP Injuries

1: Shift Lock syndrome- This injury often occurs when you are crimping in a slot, and attempting to move your hand. This is when your finger gets stuck in a locked position and is often very painful. 

2: Side ligament Strains- the ligaments on the side of your finger. The severity of these injuries can range from very mild to extreme pain. 

3: Pulley Rupture- These can be described as “islets of a fishing rod”, as they help keep the tendons in place. Only # 3 and #5 would be near the IP joint. Yet the most frequently injured ones are #4 and #2. These are some of the most common climbing finger injuries. 

4: Capsulitis: As the DIP and PIP are encased inside the ligaments/ tendons, creating what we call the capsule. When the capsule gets injured, synovial fluid can leak out, causing nutrients to not get to the joint. Climbing on swollen knuckles can also cause further damage to the IP joints. 

What can you do about it? Here are 3 ways to help prevent IP joint injuries!

1). Have a proper warm-up. 

  • Click here for a FREE FINGER WARM-UP if you need some help figuring one out. 
  • Make sure you are moving in the 3 planes of motion ( frontal, sagittal, and transverse)
  • It takes about 120 moves to warm up the pulley system, without a warm-up, a pulley might pop. 

2). Strengthen Your Fingers.

  • The best way to do this is just to climb!
  • When you are moving in all kinds of different angles, that is strengthening your fingers in climbing.
  • Research shows that bones can change after about 10 years of climbing!
  • Using different holds at different angles. 

3). Reduce the Load to your Fingers. 

  • Reducing the load can decrease your injury chances. 
  • You can always improve your technique to shift the weight from your fingers to your legs to help reduce the load. It's easier to unload your fingers than strengthen them. Technique is something everyone can work on and will help the most when it comes to climbing more efficiently. 
  • You can also work on mobility. Your body is one giant system, if one part is not working well, it is going to affect the rest of the system. 

Mobility exercise Test 

  • Turn to the side and lift your arms high over your head. The goal is to be in a straight line (180 degrees). As climbers, we start to lose shoulder mobility due to us using our lats most of the time. Lacking mobility will cause you to work harder. 

4). Get adequate rest

  • Your next workout is only as good as your prior recovery. It’s not so much about what you can do, it's about how much progress you can keep. If you are losing sleep, that might be a sign to pull back and rest more.
  • If you have muscular soreness, that is normal, but if the soreness and pain last beyond a few days, try resting some more. 

Maintaining finger strength and mobility is essential for improving your performance and sends!

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