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Strained Flexor Tendon
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By BCoudriet
From Washington
Feb 8, 2013
Last Saturday i tweaked my left hand ring finger.

Taking advantage of my good insurance i decided to go to a doctor and get a professional opinion on what was wrong. Got x rays and a check up on it and he said that nothing is ruptured and i just have a strain in my flexor tendon.

600mg ibuprofen 3x a day until the swelling goes down. Said i can use it if it doesn't hurt and just to be easy on it.

To be a little more descriptive about the strain, basically it hurts from my palm down my wrist in the tendon when force is applied on my ring finder in an open handed grip. What i found was that as long as my pinky finger is not tucked in toward my palm, i can crank on the ring finger all i want and not feel the slightest amount of pain.

Tonight i went climbing at a gym and taped my ring finger to my pinky with the intention of not letting my pinky curl in and cause the pain. I climbed 3 easy routes and felt no pain or discomfort. Then i took a look at my hand and there was pretty bad swelling in the palm side of the knuckle region.

Obviously swelling knuckles aren't the best thing.

My question is whats the best plan for my tendons recovery?

I know rest is really important and i have been icing fairly religiously since the accident occurred. Started taking the ibu after it swelled up tonight, didn't before because i had no visible swelling. Ive read on countless other threads what seem like the same few things.

Scenario 1: People who have rested for months with no climbing and then come back later and the injury still being there.

Scenario 2: People who took a week or two off then came back climbing lightly and who recovered significantly sooner.

I see the logic behind Scenario 2 with lightly working the injury to make it strong again and get blood moving around it. I'm not a doctor though so honestly i have no idea if any of that is true.

All that aside, has anyone on here had a similar injury? If so what was your treatment approach?

Thanks!

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By Christopher Barlow
Feb 9, 2013
I had this exact injury last spring, a week before I was to spend two week in Red Rocks. I was on a shallow undercling with my pinky finger curled (not touching the rock) and felt a horrible shock from my ring finger up my forearm.

I've talked to other folks who have referred to this injury as as a "stretched tendon." The label is relatively inconsequential.

I took about a week off, during which I did a few sessions of aggressive PT. I iced for a few days and then switched to ice/heat therapy and began light strengthening with Play-dough and resisted finger extensions for stability. Then, I went to Red Rocks and started light but gradually increased to more difficult climbing and was able to climb up to about 80% of my limit about two weeks out from the injury (with, as you noted, keeping my pinky and ring fingers together). A month later I was back to hard bouldering and sport climbing with nearly no concern or limitations.

The key seems to be to return to climbing to strengthen rather than aggravate. If climbing creates swelling or increased pain, maybe give it some more rest. Try the putty, bowl of rice, and finger extensions for 5-7 days, then try climbing. For the active recovery (climbing) part, it also seemed better to take 3 or 4 days between climbing sessions and increase the load (i.e. climb a smidgen harder) rather than the volume (i.e. climb more moves or more days in a row).

I hope that helps. Of all the finger injuries I've had (which have been many, unfortunately), this one seemed to require the least babying.

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By BCoudriet
From Washington
Feb 9, 2013
Christopher, thanks for the reply and information.

Mine seems to be a lot like yours. The morning after the swelling i was expecting the pain to be worst than ever assuming that i had messed it up more by climbing. To my surprise it felt better than ever.

The pain is still there but it requires more force to bring it on and is more of a dull pain as opposed to the sharper pain prior. Still amazed that using it can make it heal faster..

I'm going to climb easy again after another 5 day rest and see if the inflammation come back or not and continue icing/warming and PT. If it all seems good then I'll start increasing the load over a few weeks. Just feels nice knowing that climbing is part of the recovery!

Glad to hear yours didn't screw up your trip to Red Rocks though and thanks again for the beta!

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By Paul Weber
From West Point, New York
Mar 26, 2014
I suffered from a similar injury using rock rings on the 3 finger pockets with pinky tucked. I incurred my injury over 2 years ago and have had ups and downs in my recovery since then. I have made similar observations in my own climbing that as long as my pinky is not curled toward my palm, then I can pull all I want. This makes me timid (perhaps for good reason) with pockets and most of the time I avoid them with my right hand altogether.

Your posts have been very helpful, but I am curious, as you've progressed further since the times of your injuries, do you still tape your pinky and ring fingers together? And have you found that you can pull on pockets with no pain using your pinky and ring fingers instead of your middle and ring fingers?

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By leember
Apr 27, 2014
I think I have a similar injury, but I'm wondering if anyone else has noticed a slight bulging in the forearm as a result of their flexor tendon injury? I stopped climbing about 3 weeks ago because, after 3 weeks of babying the injury and only climbing easy routes at the gym, I didn't notice any improvement. It doesn't hurt when I climb easy routes as long as I don't grip too hard. But, even after 6 weeks I have probably less than 50% of my grip strength. I'm concerned that it might be a complete rupture and not just a tear. I would be super relieved to know that this bulging was normal and that the recovery time is similar to what you all have experienced.

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