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The 3 Most Common Finger Injuries and the Best Ways to Avoid Them

Aug 28, 2022

One of the goals of the climbers is to avoid anything that may cause them injuries so that they can enjoy climbing to the best of their ability. So in this blog article, we're going to talk about how to avoid finger injuries.

 It's important to know how people used to get injured or what gets injured before we know how to prevent it. In my experience, when I treat climbers, the most common finger injuries are the following:

  • Pulley Injuries
  • Capsular Injuries
  • Lumbrical Injuries

However, just because you’re experiencing finger pain, please don't just automatically assume that you have a pulley injury. So many times climbers come to me automatically assuming they have a pulley injury. There's no way for you to know if there’s a pulley injury just by looking at it. Every time climbers talk about pulley injuries they just look at the finger, but there's more involved because the human hand is very complicated.  

Let’s look at the most common finger injuries and look into them one by one.  

  • Pulley Injuries

This particular finger injury holds the tendons of what we call FDS or the FDP, which are the finger flexors. So whenever you “pop” a pulley or you partially tear a pulley or you fully tear one, that's when bowstringing occurs. 

  • Lumbrical Injuries

These injuries are in your palm and they are attached to the flexor digitorum profundus. The A2 pulley and the lumbrical are attached similarly to the same place. That's why you can’t automatically assume you have a pulley injury because multiple injuries can present in a similar way.  

On top of that, if you treat this type of injury like a pulley injury, but you’re actually experiencing a lumbrical Injury, you’ll likely get more frustrated because it's not going to really help. Why are lumbricals important and what makes them different? Lumbrical muscles help with gripping which is why they’re extremely important for rock climbing. What makes lumbricals unique is that they attach from the tendon to the bone, whereas most muscles attach from bone to bone.

  • Capsular Injuries

You have different ligaments that surround the joints in your fingers. The ligaments surrounding a joint create a “capsule.” Within the capsule, there is a synovial fluid that fills the space between the bones and delivers the joint its nutrients. If you injure the ligaments on a particular part of those joints, that prevents that system from working correctly and you can develop capsulitis which can turn into a chronic injury and unhealthy joint.

If you have pain in your fingers, don’t just assume you have a pulley injury. You’d need more professional advice or guidance to determine that. Hopefully, you don't have a finger injury. But if you're trying to learn about finger injuries to see how you can best avoid them, you’re doing the right thing. Remember, prevention is better than cure.     

Here are 4 things you can do to help avoid finger injuries. 

  • You can strengthen them. 

Typically, this is done with a hangboard. But, please make sure you've been climbing for at least two years before you even think to hangboard. If you're not ready or you haven't been climbing long enough, hangboard training can actually injure your fingers. So make sure that you've been climbing for long enough to avoid this.   

  • Listen to your body.

If your finger feels aggravated or sore, don't keep climbing on it. Your body is trying to send you messages to tell you to do something about it.  Make sure you listen to your body, and try to have more of a long-term approach to it, so you can enjoy climbing for as long as you can. 

  • Reduce the load on your fingers. 

The whole body works as a full system. I think of it as “top-down” or “bottom-up.” Top-down is strengthening your fingers, but your fingers are attached to the rest of your body. Bottom-up is how you can reduce the load on your fingers by making sure the rest of your body has good mobility, stability, and strength.

  • Make sure you're warming up properly.

Sometimes, you do something that you've done a million times, but you weren't ready for it on that particular day. Then a little reaction, like twisting your fingers or other movements that you're not ready for, causes an injury to occur.  Please make sure you warm up properly. Warming up and cooling down, for the amount of time they take to accomplish, will keep you the most healthy and improve your performance more than anything else. 

Need a climbing specific warm-up? Click here to get the climbing specific warm-up I give to all my climbers for FREE!

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