Finger joint stiffness, loss of ROM - does it matter?

I’ve always heard of the test of whether or not you can curl all of your fingers down to touch the little pads/callouses on the top of the palm as a test of finger health. For several months now (probably more like a year or two, but who’s counting), I haven’t been able to get my left middle finger to touch, so my question is: does that matter, and if so, how would I go about making it better?

Decreased ROM in a single finger like you describe could be caused from a number of things, but most likely in a case without pulley injury, it would be joint synovitis. Chronic joint inflammation can degrade articular surfaces over time. Decreasing joint inflammation is a good idea. Thermal modalities could help promote a decrease in resistance to motion and/or pain relief. Easy ROM such as tendon glide exercises, not done at ridiculously high volume, and training/load management would be a good next step.

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I haven’t been able to do that in… maybe ever? Don’t know. I’ve never been able to for as long as I know. It’s worse after hard sessions, voodoo floss makes it better instantly. I’ve had one finger injury.
N=1, and in my opinion it’s just a natural response.

We’d have to define “healthy” fingers. Are any fingers that regularly expose themselves to climbing “healthy” by this definition? :man_shrugging:t2:

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Your last sentence is more or less exactly what my question boils down to. Is it even a reasonable metric for climbers? Am I just remembering an old wives’ tale of sorts? No idea.

It’s good to hear that it hasn’t caused you issues long-term - it’s something I’ve been minorly worried about. I’ve had the same experience with stiffness being more acute after hard sessions, and voodoo flossing instantly making things better.

Jackson’s response makes perfect sense, but at the same time, joints/muscles that can produce more force tend to lose ROM…

Where’s Tyler Nelson when ya need him :laughing:

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I’ve seen absolutely no evidence that it’s indicative of a bad thing. Just people speculating, and there is a LOT of wild speculation that happens on the internet.

It could be due to a lot of things… arthritis, tenosynovitis, injury/history of injury, just the way you were made, etc.

To figure out if it is truly a problem would require a thorough assessment. This would also be required to figure out the optimal treatment plan too.

While I would agree that an inability to contact the palmar surface doesn’t have that much meaning in isolation, and could certainly be caused by adaptive changes or genetic predisposition, what Mark is describing I believe is an asymmetry between his digits and hands. This would be more indicative of a potential issue in a specific structure/system, that could be addressed to improve the health of the finger.

You are correct that some ROM loss may be beneficial from a sports performance perspective, but tendon stiffness that is beneficial to grip (finger flexion) would limit finger extension, not flexion as you describe

That’s the weird thing - I have no problem with finger extension. I’m one of those people whose fingers do that weird hyper-extend thing when I crimp hard, and it doesn’t seem to have any bearing on whether or not I can extend my fingers fully.

Depending on the cost, I’m tempted to see somebody like Tyler just to have at least one instance of something other than speculation out there.

Overall my fingers feel pretty healthy, but it’s definitely something that has changed since I’ve started climbing (6 years ago now, I think).

I appreciate everybody’s input! Potential updates to come

Isn’t it also just speculation that something is wrong?
Not saying you shouldn’t see someone, but if the only issue is that you can’t touch your palm, but there’s no pain, loss of function or performance…?
I’m not at all convinced that one finger having a different range of motion means anything. My two legs have a different range. So do my two arms. Some fingers bend backward further than others. I can turn my head further left than right. In fact, my ears are shaped different. We put a lot of emphasis on symmetry but with no evidence that it means anything health related.


I’m not really sure if a hand specialist/PT would really have much to say about it to be honest.

I saw a hand therapist a few years ago after injuring a pulley and she was much less concerned with full range of motion than I was.

Basically she told me my fingers went pretty straight and I could make a pretty good fist. She didn’t seem to think it was important that I could touch my tips to my palm.

She told me if I wanted to climb again I was going to have to start climbing again.


Hmmm, these are all good points. No pain, and not loss of performance that I’m aware of.

Part of it for me is just plain curiosity. I’m pretty well convinced that it’s not something to worry about, but I still would love to know the how and why. Maybe it’s enough curiosity to get it looked at, but also maybe not. If nothing else, Max’s post about a specialist not being concerned is good enough for me to not be concerned myself

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