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Injury Prevention for Your Hands

Ow, that hurt! Almost a month ago, I might have strained a finger tendon in my right hand. How you might ask? It’s very likely that I didn’t warm up enough before hopping onto the route then got hurt.

Hand injuries from what I understand are painful and take a while to heal. I’ve had an elbow injury, but not a hand and that did take time. Once you have one, depending on the damage, you’ll have to stop or limit your climbing until it gets better.

Protect Your Hands

So, what are some ways to keep my digits in shape? Here are some practices to keep your hands and fingers healthy.

It’s Getting Warm in Here

If you participate in sports, you know that warming up is important before playing. In his article Warming Up with Will Anglin, Anglin states that muscles have an optimum temperature that they like to work at, and if you don’t warm them up, you might reduce their efficiency plus increase the risk of injuring them. That’s why it’s essential to raise your body’s internal temperature.

It’s recommended to perform 5–10 minutes of aerobic exercise (jumping jacks, running, exercise bike, hiking, etc.) to elevate your temperature, which makes muscles more adaptable and less likely to strain or tear. Don’t climb with cold muscles.

Stretch It Out

According to Dr. Jared Vagy dynamic stretching is stretching the body smoothly through a full range of motion, spending equal time in each phase to help improve mobility before climbing. Choose 5-8 dynamic stretching exercises that address the major joints like hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, and back — for example, arm circles, and leg swings. Then also make sure to prep your wrists, ankles, and fingers. Focus on activating the muscles around those joints and don’t just swing yourself around.

Watch Your Moves

Climbing on a blue V3-4 problem

When doing some easy climbing to warm up, find problems or routes below your normal grade. Not only is this a crucial way to ready your body for more challenging climbs, but it’s also a time to focus on technique. Concentrating on every hand placement, foot placement, and move you do reinforces your habits to some degree. Start your session out by using this time to home in on your breathing, hand and foot placements, and movement.

According to Mike Gable, author, and owner of Eastern Sierra Physical Therapy and Wellness, crimping increases the risk of injury because of the increased forces exerted on the pulleys, especially the A2. A fully closed crimp grip, with the thumb over the index finger, exerts even more force on it. Typically, this injury stems from either warming up poorly or a desperate, dynamic move to a tiny crimp, often with poor footwork and body positioning.

Proper footwork and avoiding intense dynamic movements may decrease the risk of pulley injuries by reducing the overgripping or shockloading of the fingers. As a rule, avoid dynamic movements, especially to crimps, and focus on slow, precise footwork and core engagement. Note any pain or twinges to prevent further injury.

After your climbing session ends, it’s recommended to do some static stretching to relieve tense muscles and help keep them flexible.

I hope this information is useful to you and is a reminder to myself when I’m starting a session. Until next time, happy bouldering!