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  • Writer's pictureAJ Kirkpatrick, PT, DPT

Rock Climbing: Finger Pain

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Finger Pulley Strains: Understanding and Treating Them

Rock climbing is an exciting and challenging sport that requires a lot of strength and skill. However, it also comes with the risk of finger pulley strains, which can be painful and debilitating. Finger pulleys are ligaments that hold the tendons that flex our fingers close to the bone. When these ligaments are damaged, it can cause pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the fingers. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of finger pulley strains for physical therapy.

Causes of Finger Pulley Strains

The most common cause of finger pulley strains is overuse or sudden trauma. Rock climbers are particularly susceptible to this type of injury because of the repetitive and strenuous nature of the sport. The “A2” pulley is the most commonly injured pulley, as it is subjected to the most stress during closed-hand crimping. Other factors that can contribute to finger pulley strains include poor technique, inadequate warm-up, and insufficient rest between climbing sessions.

Symptoms of Finger Pulley Strains

The symptoms of finger pulley strains can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Mild strains may cause only minor discomfort, while more severe strains can cause significant pain and swelling. Other symptoms may include:

Tenderness around the affected area

Difficulty moving the fingers

A popping or snapping sensation

Bruising or discoloration

Treatment of Finger Pulley Strains

The treatment of finger pulley strains for physical therapy depends on the severity of the injury. Very mild strains can recover with rest, on occasion, but for improved efficiency physical therapy can also help to decrease healing times as well as improve mobility and strength in the affected fingers to decrease risk of reinjury in the future. For more severe strains, splinting or taping may be necessary to immobilize the finger and allow it to heal, in conjunction with physical therapy. Surgery may be required in rare cases where the pulley is completely torn.


Finger pulley strains can be a painful and frustrating injury for rock climbers and other athletes. However, with proper treatment and rehabilitation, most people can make a full recovery and return to their sport. If you are experiencing symptoms of a finger pulley strain, it is important to seek medical attention and follow a physical therapy program to ensure the best possible outcome. If you are in the Mission Viejo area and think you, or someone you know, might benefit from physical therapy, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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