right ring finger

Finger Strengthening Exercises – Remedy for Climbing Arthritis

Over a year ago, I injured my fingers in climbing. I don’t remember exactly when I injured it. I just remembered the uncomfortable feeling. It didn’t seem to hurt. However, the right-hand knuckle of my index finger was swollen. Being stubborn and ignoring the different discomforting signs, I kept on climbing. Until this past month, I noticed my left-hand index finger is having a similar swollen knuckle and my right index finger is not getting any better. This was not a good sign.

My Arthritis Symptoms

Some of my symptoms were

  • I had a hard time making a fist
  • I had a hard time straighten my index fingers in comparison with the other fingers.
  • The index finger was in a constant state of slightly bent like the picture below.
  • Felt a dull pain when moving the finger in a certain way.
  • I had a hard time grabbing and lifting a heavy object such as my water kettle with my right hand.

I did some research on finger injuries from climbing and started to carry out what I learned. I also wrote an article called

Climbing Finger Injuries – Remedy and Repair for Joint Pain

index1-24-21
Injured finger – couldn’t straighten 1-24-21

The first picture was taken on Jan 24, 2021. This was after I soaked my fingers in ice water to bring down the inflammation. I decided to document my journey to share with others who also may be looking for ways to heal the fingers.

I saw an orthopedic hand specialist on February 2, 2021. I asked if I have synovitis. He said “no”. Synovitis would be very painful. After examining my fingers, he believed that I may trigger arthritis from climbing by possibly climbing crimps. He suggested that I should not climb again. I replied, “no, I don’t think that is possible.”

He prescribed PredniSone (12-day packet steroid), stop climbing for several weeks, soak in warm water, stretch my fingers and work on finger strengthen exercises. He asked for me to come back for three weeks follow up visit.

index2-2-21
Injured finger after soaked in warm water and stretched 2-2-21

The second picture was on the same day of my doctor’s appointment. I started the steroid and soaked my hands in warm water for 5 minutes. I did a few stretches. You can see that there was still a slight bend in the index finger. That was as straight as I could hold it.

index-2-8-21
Injured finger after seven days of bringing down the swelling, soaking, and stretching 2-8-21

The third picture was February 8, 2021. The swelling of knuckles reduced one and a half the size. I was on my 7th day taking the PredniSone. I also soaked in warm water 3 times a day for 5 minutes each time. The temperature varies from 110 to 118 degrees as hot as I could handle.

compressed finger glove

After each soak, I did strengthening and stretching exercises for my fingers. The stretches help to straighten and bend my finger further than before. The strengthening exercises would hopefully strengthen the tendon, ligament, and others to support my joint.

I also wore compressed finger socks throughout the day and the night to keep the fingers secured and aligned.

I am not done yet. To keep my finger straight for the 3rd photo, I had to stretch and tense my ring finger. My goal is to be able to have it straight at resting state without any tension.

Here were my strengthening exercises:

I can feel my fingers gaining strength over time slowly and surely. I can grab a water kettle securely with the palm of my injured fingers with no discomfort

Stretching exercises

  • Place the hurt finger flat on a flat surface. Gently and firmly press down the knuckle until the inside of my finger touches the surface and then hold for 10 counts. Repeat 3 times. I want all the inside of my fingers to touch the flat surface.
    fingers-spread
  • Make a fist and see how far the finger can bend. Use the other hand gently and firmly press down on the injured finger to see how far it will fold into the palm of your hand. Hold for 10 counts. Do it 3 times. Try to fold the finger as far as you can each time.

These stretches help straightened my finger and also bending my finger to make a fist.

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My Two Cents

I have been making wonderful progress so far with the current routine stretching, strengthening, and soaking that I shared in this article. There was one thing I wondered was that do I really need to take Prednisone (steroid) to help with the inflammation? I may or may not. It is not hard to say since I already took it. Another option instead of taking the Prednisone is to use a topical gel called Voltaren Gel. It is gentler for the body in reducing arthritis pain and/or inflammation.

The important thing for me to remember is to prevent the same injury to re-occur. Now that I am on the mend, I want to focus on a better form using my fingers while climbing. Pay attention and/or avoid holds such as small crimps or small one-finger pockets. In addition, I continue to strengthen and stretch my fingers before I climb.

I hope this article has been helpful for you. I love to hear your thoughts and experiences on rock-climbing injuries. Please leave your comments below.

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