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Super Sensitive Fingers/Low Pain Tolerance

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Ma Ja · · Red River Gorge · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 109

I've been projecting mid to hard Sport 12's trying to break into 13s by this time next year, and I've been working on one of my many weaknesses: super low pain tolerance in the ends of my fingers. Specifically, it's not just full crimping, but full crimping when my weight is pulling straight down on the ends of my fingers, like the area between my finger nail and pad, and not just on the far end of my pads. Think very thin credit card crimps.

 For a long time even my pads were very sensitive, to the point that this was my limiting factor on hard boulder problems/sections on route. Eventually, the sensitivity lowered and im good now, but the ends are still impossible to pull on.

Is this a common theme for most of you? I know pain tolerance is different for everyone, but man im a wuss with my fingers.

Anyone have any active "desensitivity" training that I can ramp up from really soft to really hard, specifically for the ends of my fingers? I do hang board, campus, and moonboard, but that just toughens up the parts of my fingers that I've already toughened up. The only thing I'm trying right now is just pulling straight down on a door frame, with my feet still on the ground until I cant take it. One other thought was the martial arts style, stabbing a bucket of rice with my finger tips, or possibly tapping a concrete wall gently. I'm sure one of you has trained for this, so please let me know what you've used in the past.

Gumby the White · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2019 · Points: 101

maybe climbing isnt for you if a little finger pain is stopping you. You could try putting them in vice grips for periods of 5-10 minutes and then off for 2 minutes. Repeat 2x daily.

Ma Ja · · Red River Gorge · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 109
Gumby the White wrote: maybe climbing isnt for you if a little finger pain is stopping you. You could try putting them in vice grips for periods of 5-10 minutes and then off for 2 minutes. Repeat 2x daily.

I hope you climb 5.14

Colin Abraham · · Mountain View, CA · Joined Sep 2019 · Points: 0

Tommy Caldwell talks about desensitizing his finger after he cut the tip off. We do have feeling in our fingertips for a reason, but have at it.  https://www.si.com/edge/2017/05/16/the-push-book-rock-climber-tommy-caldwell-finger 

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,605
Ma Ja wrote: I've been projecting mid to hard Sport 12's trying to break into 13s by this time next year, and I've been working on one of my many weaknesses: super low pain tolerance in the ends of my fingers. Specifically, it's not just full crimping, but full crimping when my weight is pulling straight down on the ends of my fingers, like the area between my finger nail and pad, and not just on the far end of my pads. Think very thin credit card crimps.

 For a long time even my pads were very sensitive, to the point that this was my limiting factor on hard boulder problems/sections on route. Eventually, the sensitivity lowered and im good now, but the ends are still impossible to pull on.

Is this a common theme for most of you? I know pain tolerance is different for everyone, but man im a wuss with my fingers.

Anyone have any active "desensitivity" training that I can ramp up from really soft to really hard, specifically for the ends of my fingers? I do hang board, campus, and moonboard, but that just toughens up the parts of my fingers that I've already toughened up. The only thing I'm trying right now is just pulling straight down on a door frame, with my feet still on the ground until I cant take it. One other thought was the martial arts style, stabbing a bucket of rice with my finger tips, or possibly tapping a concrete wall gently. I'm sure one of you has trained for this, so please let me know what you've used in the past.

You might be referring to the pain people get when too much dirt/chalk is packed under the finger nail. Post pics. 

After climbing soak in hot water and clean under the nails with a sharp pointy knife.

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,647

Where are you finding these credit card crimps on 5.12s at the red?!?!

Do you have super-short nails? I’ve noticed that cutting my nails very short exposes that extra-sensitive skin close to the nails, and it can be more painful than longer nails. Of course it’s a fine balance, you don’t want the nails to be so long that you could break them off or tear them. Nails shouldn’t be the first thing touching the rock when you crimp. But if you cut your nails super-short, maybe try not cutting them for a few days before going climbing outside, let them grow 1-2mm longer.

Other than that, I don’t think it is Any different than what you went through with your finger pads. Climb the routes that use more of your fingertips, and they will toughen up.

Ma Ja · · Red River Gorge · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 109

Definitely not dirt/chalk under the nails, or short nails. Reading the Caldwell article, I think it will take something similar to his reconditioning. I'm going to have to try that. I'm guessing this is the best way, or he would have figured out something better.

Kentucky may be known for it's steep overhanging climbs, but there's plenty of vert and slab, if you like.  Working on a 11+ slab line that is kinda brutal, and I know with a little less sensitivity I'll be able to crank out the final moves. And another slightly overhanging 12+ that has a section that seems impossible right now.

Thanks for the responses.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 637

Longer nails helped me a lot when I was working on something really thin this summer. Seemed to give more support to the end of the pads on my fingers, kept them as long as I could without having them grind into the rock. Which was actually still pretty short, maybe 2mm of free nail past the hyponychium.

Other than that, min edge hangs. Maybe even worth going to a 4-6mm incut hold and hanging with weight removed. There is been some discussion about adaptations in the soft tissue on pads themselves. Not sure how truly "trainable" it is. 

Aweffwef Fewfae · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

"very thin credit card crimps "
at 5.12, those crimps aren't for your hands. weight your feet more instead of pulling on the crimps. you should be using balance to take the weight off your hands. credit card crimps are there for balance.

 most of my v7 friends cannot hang off the 6mm edge with both hands. v7 should be in line with 5.13 (approximately).

full crimp may engage the nail bed, causing pain. full crimp isn't as strong as half crimp either. even if you feel weaker on half crimp, it's purely mental. full crimp may cause more injury.

rock type and weather matter. some areas have volcanic rock which is very sharp. going in the dead of summer will be very painful. in the winter, skin becoming less pliable means more resistance to sharp holds.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 637
Aweffwef Fewfae wrote:
 most of my v7 friends cannot hang off the 6mm edge with both hands. v7 should be in line with 5.13 (approximately).

This is pretty accurate and a good thing to think about before looking at the physical training angle, personally I can't hang less than 12mm and I'm climbing thin mid 12. I have found routes that I had to crimp like holy hell while moving feet up, but that was always because I had to do a stupidly high rockover and it was pushing the end range of motion.
After working hip mobility over the winter I came back to that route this summer and didn't have any trouble working the feet up and barely had to bear down on the same crimps. 

Short Fall Sean · · Flagstaff, AZ · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 5

I have naturally pretty soft skin on my hands (the ladies love it; I'm not as big a fan) and lately I've been using Rhino Skin Dry to toughen it up a bit. It's worked pretty well; I definitely feel like I can handle more hard crimping in a day than before. The active ingredient is Methenamine, same stuff as in Antihydral, but a lower concentration I believe. Don't know if it will work for your problem, but could be worth a shot.

Evan LovleyMeyers · · Fremont, Seattle · Joined Mar 2019 · Points: 25

How is your water intake?  My hands get sensitive when I am dehydrated.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,605
Ma Ja wrote: Definitely not dirt/chalk under the nails, or short nails. Reading the Caldwell article, I think it will take something similar to his reconditioning. I'm going to have to try that. I'm guessing this is the best way, or he would have figured out something better.

Kentucky may be known for it's steep overhanging climbs, but there's plenty of vert and slab, if you like.  Working on a 11+ slab line that is kinda brutal, and I know with a little less sensitivity I'll be able to crank out the final moves. And another slightly overhanging 12+ that has a section that seems impossible right now.

Thanks for the responses.

Do you have little red streaks under the nail?

Ma Ja · · Red River Gorge · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 109
Evan LovleyMeyers wrote: How is your water intake?  My hands get sensitive when I am dehydrated.

I'm a fish. I can never get enough water, and I sweat more than anyone I know. So, probably a factor if that really is a thing.

Ma Ja · · Red River Gorge · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 109
Tradiban wrote:

Do you have little red streaks under the nail?

No

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,647

I'm still curious what those routes are... if you don't mind sharing the specific routes? While I am certainly aware of vert and crimpy routes at the Red, when I hear "razor-sharp crimps" I tend to think fresh limestone route, and not the skin-friendly RRG sandstone. Doesn't change your situation, I suppose, just a matter of perspective...

I don't know if the WAY you grab those holds could make a difference. When I have to pull on a really small sharp crimp, I find that carefully "massaging" your way into/onto the hold, instead of dynamically latching it, can make it it both more precise/secure, and less painful. You could, of course, counter this by saying that there are routes where you just HAVE to throw for a bad sharp crimp... but that's why I'm curious about which routes specifically you are talking about. 

Mark Paulson · · Raleigh, NC · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 141

The 7mm incut edge on the Tension Grindstone Pro is the best full-crimp trainer for tiny outdoor crimps I've found. Training on it has had a -very- noticeable effect on my ability to comfortably use small crux edges outside. It's as much as a pain-tolerance/tip-conditioning tool as it is a strength trainer. The crimp on the Trango boards is not incut, and while it's good for connective-tissue training, it's just not the same as what you often encounter outside.

There's also using antihydral to thicken your skin, which won't make a particular hold more comfortable, but will allow you to take more burns before your skin gets thin and weepy. Get the foosball stuff in the tube- I've found it works way better than the Rhino Skin products.

Malachi Constant · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 5

It’s a thankless job, telling people it’s a hard, hard Universe they’re in.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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