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.

Finger expansions to prevent pulley strain


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:

  1. Start with a rubber band around your thumb.
  2. Rotate one half turn clockwise and loop it over your index finger.
  3. Rotate one half turn counter-clockwise and loop it over your middle finger. Repeat this pattern until all fingers are connected.
static.squarespace static.squarespace-1 static.squarespace-2


How to do finger expansions

  1. Begin with your fingers flexed forward.
  2. Fully spread your fingers outwards against the resistance.
  3. This can also be performed with specialty equipment such as the TheraBand Hand Xtrainer
static.squarespace-3 static.squarespace-4


Tip: mirror a climbing stance

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.



For more strategies on how to prevent pulley injuries, view the full article in DPM’s issue 29 on page 46.

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