For the past eight months or so I have been suffering from a finger injury, which has turned into multiple finger injuries. Any athlete can attest to how difficult it is to give up something they love to do in order to heal. I have known a small few that can instantly take a break to allow healing, but most people I know, especially climbers want to push through the pain and continue doing what they love.
My injury started off pretty simple. The base of my ring finger on my right hand felt “tweaked” but I still continued to climb on it and just cut back on difficulty a bit, but I would always see a harder climb that I wanted to try and would almost always fall into the temptation and climb it, and every time I did I regretted it and could feel my finger become agitated. Soon I learned to focus more on using my good fingers and not place a lot of pressure on the injured finger, and as a result other fingers began to feel “tweaked” as well.
At some point the base of the ring finger on my left hand felt the same was my right, but only not as severe in pain. Despite this I did not listen to my body and kept climbing. Recently I completed my 30 climb Birthday Challenge and after that weekend the entirety of both hands has felt odd – sort of sore and weak. It was then I started realizing I’m going to have to take this injury thing more seriously.
So these past few days I have been doing more research about my injury and have been more aggressive with giving it rest, ice baths and stretching it a lot. I have heard about the ice baths before, but was not very aggressive with it. I am know doing them 30 minutes a night every night before bed, this is really hard though as it takes an hour to get both hands done. However, I enjoyed sitting outside last night reading a book while my hands soaked – it was a beautiful day.
The original doctor I went to specialized in sports injuries and chiropractic treatment. His assessment after ruling out a break and ligament injuries was that I had a “rolled” tendon sheath. It made sense seeing as how I had a small knot at the base of the finger. I also have had full range of motion in the fingers as well. I went with what he said and was fairly discipline about stretching it as he suggested at first, but that quickly tapered off.
I am now not positive about his assessment. I still feel a small knot on the right hand, but not on the left. Another possibility is that I could be a partial tear of my A2 pulley, which is a very common injury amongst climbers. The other injuries are close to other PIP joints and are also likely small tears. I sense that focusing on not using the more severely injured fingers has resulted in smaller injuries on other fingers.
So, with all that being said I plan on being a lot more aggressive with my healing. I am taking about two weeks off of climbing and giving the hands their much needed ice baths. After these two weeks I will begin to climb again, but at several grades bellow my ability. I will not allow myself to jump on anything harder than a juggy 5.8 climb. I will also be asking my climbing partner to hold me accountable to this – he will know not to let me jump on anything harder regardless of what I think the route looks like from the ground. Another part of the healing process will involve taping my fingers, which is talked about in Training for Climbing.
Hopefully this will speed up the recovery. Eight months is a long time to have any injury. I have climbed through slightly sprained ankles several times with a brace and still healed fairly quickly. But this has been a thorn in my side. I also think the biggest lesson to learn here is to listen to your body. The whole time it was screaming at my not to jump on that 5.10 or 5.11a. I failed to listen, and I paid the price. My body finally shut down to the point I have to take it more seriously. So in the future I will be more mindful of what my body is trying to tell me.
Here are some helpful links I found through the help of many fellow Twitter climber
- Ice Baths (best site I have found with a good explanation of the ice bath method)
- Training for Climbing (partial portion of the book online, the finger injury section just happens to be a part of it)