Climber's finger is one of the most common climbing injuries within the sport of rock climbing. It is an overuse injury that usually manifests in a swollen middle or ring finger due to a damaged flexor tendon pulley, normally the A2 or A4 pulley. It is caused by a climber trying to support his or her body weight with one or two fingers, and is particularly common after a repeated utilization of small holds. Continued climbing on an injured finger may result in increased downtime in order to recover.
Management of tendon injuries in the fingers is to follow the RICE method.
Immediately cease climbing and any other activity that puts stress on the injured finger. Consult a doctor if there is noticeable "bowstringing" on the flexor tendon or if you are the least unsure about the nature of the injury.
There are different theories out there for the preferred line of approach. Some argue for the use of NSAIDs and ice for visible swelling only, others argue diclofenac sodium should be applied and carefully rubbed in on the injury until the swelling starts to give.
When the pain and swelling is gone (depending of the grade of the injury, 1–4 weeks), begin with an active healing process – containing squeezing putty clay or a stress ball. Combine this with light massage and mild stretching to ensure your finger will heal properly and better prepared for future stress. The use of heating pads and cold water baths are also mentioned in several sources in order to increase blood flow. Use this therapy for about twice as long as the previous resting period (2–8 weeks) before gradually returning, with the utmost care, to climbing.
Gradually return to climbing while using prophylactic taping every time you climb, and spend the first weeks climbing relatively easy routes with big holds, good footholds and keep your sessions short and stay away from overhangs and campus areas/boards.
Return to full-force climbing if easy climbing yields no pain. Continue taping (it will also serve as a mental note of the previous injury) and avoid tweaky crimps and pockets for several months, since complete tendon healing can take 100 days or more.