Pulley Health Monitoring Tips

Hey there!

I’m curious, if you guys have some kind of approach to monitor your current pulley “status” whilst going through a training cycle.

I have (only) been climbing for around 3 years and so far never had any pulley issues. I am very aware of any kind of aching that is more than the average soreness that you get out of training several days a week.

The background of my question is, that in phases of heavy stress for my pulleys (limit bouldering/ hangboarding/board climbing) , I noticed, that if i push onto my A2 pulley (middle finger) on rest days, I could sometimes feel kind of a light ache.

Just as anyone climbing I guess, I would love to be very aware of the kind of stress that is sufficient for good gains without getting to close to the risk of injuring myself. Especially concerning pulleys…

I have heard of (comp) climbers, that determined their pulley health (and their strenght) by measuring the diameter of their fingers each day… I am not sure if that is an effective way… But I might be wrong.

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A big indicator for me is how my fingers feel in the morning, right as I’m waking up, after a hard training sesh. I actually think this check is useful for any other potential injury / problem area as well. A red flag is if achiness wakes me up. When I’ve been battling tendinopathies in the past, I know it’s bad if in the night or early morning it feels like the problem area is lightly throbbing or burning - even subtly.

The pressing test you describe is pretty much the only standard for checking pulley inflammation specifically. Sometimes it’s more pronounced at the corner of the joint because a lot of pulley injuries present on the side of the finger more than the front. Be aware you can create inflammation from too much prodding too though!

The biggest culprit for pulley injuries in my experience is ANY slipping on holds. This includes foot slips that shock load your hands, your hands themselves slipping suddenly on holds ( even a small amount that you recover from) etc. I noticed I would aggravate fingers far more often in hotter months, and I think the good practice of being SUPER diligent about your brushing of holds, using fans and good chalk during the sweatier seasons for prevention.

As simple as these preventative measures sound they go along way and take a lot of discipline to apply consistently. But, I think they’re necessary at some point to safely push your threshold on hard bouldering hanging etc.

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Completely from a research point of view, connective tissue will tell you how it’s responding 24 hours after the activity. If it hurts 24 hours later, it didn’t like it. If the pain has subsided 24 hours after, then the pain was likely not an indicator of damage. But I’m not a doctor - so that that with a grain of salt. Maybe a whole shaker.


When rehabbing my own injuries the 24 hour back to baseline check has been pretty darn accurate of progress towards healing or regression.

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So I have to rest my fingers for a WHOLE 24 HRS … seems excessive LOL

(of course I am kidding (but it is hard some days ))


thank you @Kris and @Djkatsaros for sharing your knowledge; I appreciate it a lot!

Talking to other people in the last weeks brought me to two more questions, that people I talked to brought up too:

  1. Have you any experience with finger acupunture rings for fingers? Do you think they could help?

  2. In a video a watched some time ago, I think it was Shauna Coxey, described, that after an intense hangboard session she uses the back side of a table knife to “roll out” her pulleys.
    What do you think of this method?

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I’ll just let this explain my answer for me. :nerd_face:

Over the years I’ve had quite a few finger injuries, some of them led to chronic condition and now my fingers get quite stiff day after limit sessions on the board. I’ve used acupressure rings but didn’t feel like they made any difference on their own. What worked for me was a simple pen rolling. I guess this forces synovial fluid in my joints/ligaments/tendons to circulate and accelerate recovery. I do it few times after the session and at least 3 times following day (30-60 seconds each hand). I also experimented with different thickness of pens, depending how severe stiffness is.
I picked up this exercise while rehabing tendon injury, you can see demonstration in this video (it starts at 2:00)

I cant say I’ve utilized either to a level of consistency where I could notice an effect. I would suspect it can’t hurt?

I’m curious what Shauna’s rollout looks like. I’ve played a little with rolling with a pencil today and that feels like…something? I’m a PhD student so there is always a pencil and desk time to be utilized :slight_smile: .