Common Climbing Injuries | Wrist and Hand Pain | North Vancouver

Climbing is a sport that involves skill and physical fitness. Climbers must be strong, coordinated, and calm under pressure. It is also a sport that is filled with risk of injury. If a climber is injured, it can put them at risk if they continue before complete healing has occurred. In particular, climbing puts a huge amount of stress on the hand and wrist. Climbers need incredible grip strength, along with upper body strength and mobility. If the hand and wrist are unable to handle the stress of climbing, or are exposed to some kind of trauma, injury will occur.

Below, some finger and wrist injuries are described that commonly occur during climbing. A hand or wrist injury can be debilitating and uncomfortable, since we use our hands for everything. Without function of the hand and wrist, daily activities become difficult and possibly painful. This is why it’s important to take into consideration ways to prevent acute and overuse type injuries, as well as ensure that you are working your muscles in the proper way to prepare them for the demands of climbing.

The hand and wrist are complex joints, requiring many different systems to work properly. The tendons of the finger are held to the bone with a sheath, forming a pulley system that makes the fingers move. This system can be strained, called a pulley strain. This most often occurs in the joint closest to the palm, called an A2 pulley strain.

This strain will occur when the fingers are put under unexpected force, for example when a climber’s foot slips and the fingers are left to hold the weight. This injury is accompanied by a popping sound and swelling and/or bruising, and is usually treated through ice, rest, and physiotherapy.

Another injury that can occur to the finger and hand area during climbing is a flexor tendon tear. The pulleys mentioned above run above the flexor tendons, which can tear when they are stretched too far. Pain, tenderness, and disability results. When the tendons are torn, they are no longer able to act on the muscles and can no longer move the fingers. Pain will be in the palm and wrist area.

The collateral ligaments in the fingers, much as like in the elbow and knee joints, surround each finger joint and support them, preventing dislocation to the side. If these ligaments are stressed from side to side, they can pull and stretch, resulting in a strain. The middle finger is most susceptible to this kind of injury. Rest, ice, and stretching gently may help this injury recover.

Moving up the upper limb, a common wrist injury seen in climbers is an injury to the triangular fibrocartilage complex. The end of the forearm and the wrist bones are supported by this cartilage, which sits between them on the pinky side. Damage to this structure can cause wrist pain, and failure to stop climbing and treat the injury will result in further damage. This injury may be helped by splinting, taping, and rest. Braces are available for this injury as well.

Climbing puts tremendous strain on your upper body. Not only the wrist and hand, but also the elbow and shoulder must be protected and strengthened to prevent injury. The injuries listed above are the most common ones, but certainly others can occur. If you would like more information, or are currently experiencing any of these injuries, please don’t hesitate to contact us at or call us to book an appointment with Quinn Turner or call at 604-983-6616.