You feel a sharp pain across your finger after a long day of hanging on crimpers. Your finger is swollen and difficult to bend. You may have heard a snap or pop while pulling hard on a particular hold. It is likely that you strained or tore a pulley ligament in your finger.
The muscles in our forearms extend into long narrow tendons as they reach into the fingers. These tendons run through sheaths and are anchored down by pulleys that keep the tendons gliding flush to the bones. When excessive strain is placed on the finger tendons, the pressure exerts an outward force on the pulley, which may cause it to tear. This is one of the most common climbing injuries, but lucky for you, it can be prevented with a rubber band and some targeted physical therapy exercises.
Best prevention exercise—
Finger expansions: perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions
This exercise strengthens the muscles in the hand and fingers that can help oppose pressure on the finger pulleys.
Putting on the rubber band
A: Start with a rubber band around your thumb.
B: Rotate one half turn clockwise and loop it over your index finger.
C: Rotate one half turn counter-clockwise and loop it over your middle finger. Repeat this pattern until all fingers are connected.
D: Begin with your fingers flexed forward.
E: Fully spread your fingers outwards against the resistance.
F: This can also be performed with specialty equipment such as the TheraBand Hand Xtrainer
Mirror a climbing stance
G: Perform the finger expansion exercise in a partial squat with both hands over your head. Integrating the finger expansions into this stance is more effective because it closely simulates the body position while climbing.
Dr. Jared Vagy is a Physical Therapist and an authority on climbing related injuries. He received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California. He is board certified as an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist from the American Physical Therapy Association. He has over ten years of climbing experience and has climbed all over the world. Climbing and injury prevention are his passions and he is committed to combining the two.
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