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
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Use a rubber band to stretch out each finger and also as a group for both hands. I do ten counts per finger and 3 times for each hand.
- Place all the fingers flat on a flat surface. Lift one finger at a time, hold and/or tap, and count to 10. While one finger is lifting, press the rest of the fingers down against the counter as hard as possible. Do it 3 times for each hand.
- Bring the hands together into a praying position. Line the fingers up against each other. I focus on one finger at a time pushing against each other for 10 counts and then the right and left hands pressed against each other for another 10 counts.
- Touch the thumb to the index finger, press, and hold for 10. Continue with touch the thumb to the middle finger, press and hold for 10. Do the same for the ring, and then to pinky fingers.
- Squeeze a ball big enough to fit in the palm of your hand for 10 counts. Do this for both hands.
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
- 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.
- 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.
2 thoughts on “Finger Strengthening Exercises – Remedy for Climbing Arthritis”
Hi, thanks for this article! I have an identical condition – inflamed and swollen finger joints on left middle + index fingers plus right middle + ring fingers. I’ve been climbing for 25 years, mostly slabs with lots of crimpy holds… I’ve asked several doctors about my condition – an x-ray showed nothing and the bones seem normal, and the orthopaedic simply said “stop climbing”. Your site is the only systematic therapeutic programme and I plan to follow your instructions for a couple of weeks to see where it can take me. The only thing I wonder – your original page recommends ice cold water soaks which feel totally pleasant to me, especially on the day I’ve been climbing, but now you recommend warm water soaks – has your doctor provided any explanation about this? Thanks so much for creating this page.
Hello Spela! Thank you for your feedback. It is my pleasure to share techniques that work for me. Hopefully, it will work for you, also. As far as the cold and hot water soak, each serves a special purpose. The cold water soak is for reducing swelling and inflammation. Once the swelling is reduced, soaking in warm water stretches the muscle. This helps the flexibility of my joints. I also found a natural supplement that works for me instead of taking PredniSone steroid. The steroid has side effects. Please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have more questions.