Fingers: Stiffness, Soreness

I'm 26 and for the past two years I have been unable to bend my fingers into a complete fist. I've started doing the finger stretches that you suggested [No. 173 or drjulian-saunders.com] as well as ice baths, but nothing seems to improve the range of motion.

By Rock and Ice | February 2nd, 2010

I’m 26 and for the past two years I have been unable to bend my fingers into a complete fist. I’ve started doing the finger stretches that you suggested [No. 173 or drjulian-saunders.com] as well as ice baths, but nothing seems to improve the range of motion. Outside of tenderness and mild soreness when I bend/straighten my fingers it doesn’t affect my climbing. Is this something to worry about? What is causing it? Anything else I can do for therapy?

dgflr7 | RockandIce.com Forum

Any loss of Range of motion is a tad concerning. In the absence of pain, it is likely to be one of a few scenarios. First, you may have some fluid accumulation in your fingers due to ongoing stress. Second, the connective tissues have, in the process of strengthening, thickened and now act like a cumulative wedge. Last, thickening around the joint capsule and collateral ligaments that stabilize the finger joints will lead to stiffening and produce the same effect.

It is certainly common for climbers to experience swelling and stiffness in their fingers much like a sumo wrestler gets sore knees because they get hammered.

End-range pain usually suggests that the joint is simply under chronic strain. That it does not affect your climbing is awesome! Just keep in mind that loss of ROM is the first sign that the joint is undergoing changes as a result of the stress. The next station on your express train to world domination may be an unscheduled stop at Destruct-o-ville.

I would not be too worried — though I would do the stretches diligently and try to increase the ROM. Once you lose the accessory motions such as rotation and multi-planar sheering of the PIP and DIP joints, the pulley system will be under relatively greater loads at certain points and the chance of damage is on the upswing.

If the joints become any more painful or swollen, see your physician. I doubt very much that it is an inflammatory arthritis, but I can’t see your fingers!

 

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