Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My First Finger Injury

Three months ago, I hurt my finger while climbing but I can't remember what exactly happened. The pain was in my left middle finger and it doesn't hurt when I pull down on a hold and only hurts mostly when I try to make a fist, so I thought it would be fine to just keep climbing on it. But over the last three months the pain hasn't gone away which started to worry me a little so I started looking up finger injuries online. There were lots of possible finger injuries including, sprained tendon, sprained ligament, tendonitis, stress fracture, etc. But it looked like the main treatment for all of them, if there wasn't a full tear, was rest.

I tried resting but I'm kind of addicted to climbing so I gave in after a few days and kept climbing again, trying to be careful with my fingers. When climbing I feel no pain in my fingers but afterwards it hurts. Recently it actually started hurting more so I thought I should really have it checked out. But I didn't know if I should go to a hand specialist or a general doctor. I decided to just go to the urgent care center across the street from where I worked.

Urgent care is actually pretty awesome, no appointment necessary and when I went, at 4:30 pm, there was no wait time. I was in and out in 30 minutes. I went through triage, which was just to get information, then had x-rays on my finger, three of them, then the doctor came to talk to me. He told me there were no stress fractures and that it was just a sprain to my ulnar ligament in my finger. The ulnar ligament is the tissue connecting the bones together that are facing away from the body. He said the name reflects the ulna and radius bones in the arm. The injury looks kind of like this but on my middle finger:

He demonstrated where exactly the injury was by bending my finger sideways slightly. If bent towards the left, there was minimal pain but if bent towards the right it hurt a lot. It didn't hurt when I climbed because the injury was on the ligaments on the side which doesn't get used as much when pulling vertically. The doctor said he sprained a ligament in his finger once and it took him months to heal. He said all I can really do right now is to buddy tape my middle finger to my ring finger to protect it from bumps and to keep it from bending, like this:

He also suggested to take ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. I read online that icing it is good too so I asked him if I should do that and he said that works too. He said it should be okay for me to climb but I should be careful and that climbing would probably slow down the healing. For now, my plan is to ice my finger, take ibuprofen and tape my finger when I climb but climb at much lower difficulties and we'll see how it goes from there.

I tried to climb on it tonight and for some reason I just get scared anytime I need to hold with my left hand. I think I'm just going to have to suck it up and just not climb for awhile.


  1. This reads exactly like my current finger injury on the middle knuckle of the middle finger on my right hand. Haven't been to a doctor, but it seems that rest is key at this point. Any updates on how your finger progressed? Long term rest? No climbing, moderate climbing, etc.?

    1. I actually went to a hand specialist and he pretty much said it was going to take a long time to heal and not to worry about it. I ended up continuing climbing regularly and it took about a year, from when the pain started, to go away. The specialist did send me to hand therapy for a few weeks though but it was just an expensive finger massage ($300 per 20 minute session) so I really don't recommend seeing a specialist. But I don't remember doing anything special. The pain just kind of went away one day but you can always try the usual massage, ice, heat, etc. Rest might have sped up the healing but I managed to fully recover climbing three times a week with at least one rest day in between.