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DIP Joint Pain Climbing: Care for Capsulitis

Above: A DIP Joint of a Climber taped for alignment. Tape can be used for proprioception, swelling, or a variety of other brain-training goals.

The first of a series of articles on finger specific aches and pains. Did you know that your finger can be injured climbing in a variety of ways and each injury can have a different and specific treatment plan?

Head this Warning- Applying the wrong treatment plan for your injury not only leads to failure to heal, but it can greatly increase the degeneration in your finger! Lucky for you, capsulitis type injuries are not only easy to heal, they are something we call 'self-limiting' but we will get into more about that later in this article.

Injury of the DIP Joint Climbing:

For those of you who are experiencing pain in your distal finger, this article is about capsulits of the DIP joint. The very last joint of each finger (residing right next to your fingernail) is called the distal interphalangeal joint, or DIP for short.

This joint is easily injured climbing or doing parkour in a few common ways. It is my goal through many articles to teach you about each (or if you are in a crunch for time, you can check out my book!)

Signs and Symptoms of DIP injury besides Pain with Climbing:

This joint can swell with what we call capsulitis, or inflammation of the joint capsule. Seen in climbers who do not have enough hand strength to stabilize the joint from hyperextension (as seen in a crimp hand position). Capsuilitis is easily viewed in the early acute phase with the naked eye as the finger may swell, become red, and become tender to motion. Overpressure into flexion with the opposing hand will often feel stiff, tender and as if the joint has more fluid in it than normal.

One of my favorite injuries to treat, climbing related capsulitis will easily resolve after a few days or weeks of time off and corrective care. Capsulitis is a non-surgical case, which means you do not need to visit an orthopedic surgeon or ask for a referral for surgery.

DIP injuries involving capsulitis can be conservatively managed with my self-care strategies. Of course, if there’s something you are doing in your daily life that aggravates this outside of your favorite sport, this finger issue is sure to return again and again.

Left: Compression taping under stabilizing climbers tape.

LifeStyle Woes with DIP Pain in Climbers:

I see lots of DIP pain in climbers who love typing on their phone or computer keyboard with the injured finger. This is often an overuse injury and those of you who get it are usually shocked when I note that your lifestyle also complies the inflammation and irritation into this tiny joint.

Let this region heal with unloading it, compression, and attention to using other fingers as much as this finger. It is common for it to become inflamed if you MUST use this finger in an aggravating way and are unable to load it, but you should be able to rest and heal it with a little attention to the finer details of your daily schedule. If you are unable to heal, reach out and I’m happy to help.

Self-Care for Finger Inflammation:

My best self-care tip is to apply Kinesiotape in a spiral compression style. Taping this little joint is quite fun. Simply begin with kinesiotape (NOT climbers tape) and cut a strip that is the width of your pinkie finger. Simply tape with a spiral, 50% of the tape overlapping the previous loop as you tape up and over the joint from fingertip towards the palm. Ensure your tape is NOT too tight while you are at rest with no tension on the tape. Apply more tension on the tape with climbing. On yes, did I not say that you CAN climb through this injury? Want more self-care tips? Purchase my book or book a Zoom visit today!

The Bottom Line:

Self-care can seem intimidating for those who have never done it before. Often it seems scary to try to heal something as you might fear making your climbing injury worse. However, if you figure out how you want to heal yourself, what will make your injury worse and what will make it better, you will have less fear and more success healing your climbing injury. To speed your learning, For a limited time I am offering my very own self-care injury prevention book, Climbing Injuries Solved

with the purchase of a Skype visit. Book a visit now and get this book in your inbox with a few other bits of important information to ensure you heal better than your teammates or your favorite climbing buddy.


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