We’ve all from time to time felt the warning aches of tired fingers, but when is it really ok to keep on cranking?
If you’ve ever heard the snap of an abused tendon, you – like us, will understand how important it is to know all the facts about finger injury prevention.
First of all, what do our fingers look like? This may sound obvious, but many people don’t know what’s inside our fingers. If you knew just how they were put together, it might be easier to know how to avoid pulling them apart!
First all we have a big tendon that runs from our elbow, down our forearm and along our fingers, this is called the Flexor Tendon.
The fibres which hold the Tendon (and sheath) close to the bone are called Pulleys. We have 5 annular pulleys within each finger, but the most commonly injured pulley is the A2, which is located below the first knuckle.
Surrounding each finger joint are Collateral ligaments.
Flexor Tendon Injuries: Flexor Tendons are usually the most devastating type of finger injury, even mild tears can lead to pain, numbness within the fingers and reduced movement. If you manage to completely rupture the tendon it may require surgery to heal. The warning pains usually start in the palm/wrist area.
Pulley injuries: Pulleys are the most commonly injured part of the finger, and can cause pain and swelling. This can take a while to heal, and if not left to recover properly will often remain a long term issue. You are usually warned with a dull ache in between the joints.
Collateral ligament injuries: These can be quite serious in some cases and may require surgery, but are usually quite uncommon. You may feel pain in your joints, and notice some swelling, most often in the middle joint. Collateral Ligament injuries usually occur after loading from the side (for example from using side pulls and gastons).
Nobody likes finger injuries, but how do you help prevent them?
It goes without saying that the powers of a good warm up prevent injury like nothing else. For information on properly warming up, there are some good guidelines in the training area. Remember the most common way of obtaining a pulley injury is to crimp on cold fingers, so always start your warm up on large, open handed holds.
It’s important to remember that if you get aches or pains in your fingers this could be your body’s way of telling you to ease off. Taping your fingers may help to quell the pain, but won’t prevent injury.
Know when to stop and rest
The sensible climber will listen to his/her body, and if they feel the warning signs, warm down and go home. If you catch it early, recovery could be just missing a few sessions, but if you catch it too late it could mean months out of action.
Over crimping is a common cause of finger injury. Many people over crimp because they simply haven’t ever tried to open hand, so it could be worth doing some light training on easy routes to build up open handed strength (and don’t crimp the slopers!) If you are unsure of what crimping or open-handing is, check out the information in the training area.
I hope all this information has been useful, and will help you to prevent undue injury! This post marks the first of a series of articles we hope you'll find beneficial to your climbing.
References for this article can be found here:
The White Spider Guru