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I am a new rock climber at the age of 30 and I have been climbing (and bouldering) twice a week for two months now (one session bouldering and one session in the wall). I have lately been feeling some soreness around the A2 and A3 pulley (see figure) below.

The symptoms I experience is a strange stiffness in the morning which makes it hard to bend my fingers, and when they bend, it feels somewhat strange, as if something was moving around in the A2/C1/A3 area. The same area is also slightly tender. However, I have no pain in these areas while climbing.

Finger anatomy Figure courtesy of Training for Climbing, by Eric J. Horst (via Finger Tendon Pulley Injury).

My question is therefore:

What are symptoms of climber's finger?

I want to continue climbing, as often as possible, and at least twice a week. But is this sustainable, given the current situation, or do I need to take a break from climbing?

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Have you consulted an ortho or a physio about this? –  Freakyuser Sep 12 '13 at 4:23

1 Answer 1

Finger injuries from climbing often involve strains of the tendon and/or tendon pulley, inflamation, partial or full tears and/or joint ligament sprains. You would need to see a doctor for a diagnosis, preferably a hand specialist with experience treating climbers. If you need treatment, look for a specialized hand therapist (either a physical or occupational therapist who has specialized in evaluation and treatment of the hand).

According to an abstract by the Tokyo Hand Surgery and Sports Medicine Institute climber's finger symptoms are described as:

(1) A sharp pain when grasping, and a sudden "snap" sound and snapping phenomenon in the concerned fingers and (2) a tender palpable mass proximal to the PIP joint.

This article from the Mayo Clinic describes symptoms of trigger finger as:

  • Finger stiffness, particularly in the morning
  • A popping or clicking sensation as you move your finger
  • Tenderness or a bump (nodule) at the base of the affected finger
  • Finger catching or locking in a bent position, which suddenly pops straight
  • Finger locked in a bent position, which you are unable to straighten

If you want to be able to climb long term, it is best to treat your symptoms sooner rather than later for best results. You can see by the picture you linked to that the finger pulley and tendon sheath system is complex and confined. Rest is important to allow a tendon or ligament to heal. You may need a splint for protection. The degree of injury can progress if you do not allow it time to heal.

Once you have been cleared to return to climbing, get a professional to help you evaluate your technique to help prevent a recurrence. Progress very gradually. You may also need to use taping for protection. Good luck. Hope it turns out ok.

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