Friday, August 03, 2007

Getting Stronger

On Sunday, I climbed for the first time since injuring my thumb while paddling out to an island in Maine on a camping trip. The injury was a contusion (bruise) on the bones around the top of my thumb. The past couple of weeks have been wrought with wearing a stinky, neoprene SPICA splint (to keep my thumb from doing things when it isn't doing anything), keeping ibuprofen in my bloodstream to limit inflammation around the nerves, and me trying to pop my thumb joint out like I used to be able to do (I'm double jointed in both thumbs, but can't pop left thumb like I can my right. This is really a comfort thing. Kind of like sitting in one position for eight hours and needing to stretch. Well, I've been instinctively popping my thumbs all my life, just to give them a breather from being in the same position for hours on end - this doesn't hurt, by the way - and now my left thumb is begging me to let me pop it. I feel badly about this because I can't. Anyway).

I went to the gym on Sunday to test my thumb to see if I could grip, put weight on it, pinch, hook, grab, etc. It really hurt on some climbs, particularly ones where I had to wrap my thumb around the hold for balance, even when the weight was on my fingers. This was a concern for me because I really wanted this bruise to be something that just went away. Unfortunately, it felt as if it was going to linger for months, as had a fellow MassClimber has had happen to her contusion on her wrist. I felt stupid for climbing Sunday and figured that I had two choices: either shut down for six months and let it heal properly, or climb easy grades and extend the recovery period out several months more (maybe even up to a full year). I still haven't made a choice, but I did go climbing last night.

In truth, I think I had a date, but I'm not sure. I met her online, but only because she recognized my picture as someone from the gym. So I don't know what that means (I had a good time, by the way, so maybe it was a date. I don't know. We'll see). I digress. I ended up climbing Thursday because I was meeting someone, not because I had decided to climb easy climbs and let the recovery period linger. But still, my thumb was sore Monday morning and I was curious just how much climbing was going to hurt me (read: hurt me more than I'm already hurt). So I used last night as another testing night. All week I've been wearing my splint regularly during the day (should wear it at night too) and taking my ibuprofen. I've been somewhat careful with not using my thumb for things like unscrewing bottles of OJ or opening bags of chips (it's the squeezing that hurts). It was sore on Monday, but not so much more than it has been the past week on Tuesday. Wednesday was fine, and so was Thursday.

Once at the gym, I started slowly. I stretched, which I always do anyway, and, upon meeting the person I was supposed to meet, I got on 5.8s and 5.7s to start. The thumb felt fine. I then got on a couple of 5.8+ and 5.9s. Again, it was fine. I think that if I felt any soreness or pain at all, then it was anticipated. In other words, I created the pain because I thought it should have been there. But I'm not 100% sure of that, so maybe the pain was real. In any case, I really struggled on a 5.10c on Sunday that I had been cruising in previous weeks (pre-injury). There were some holds on that particular route that really sent my nerves around the joint into a frenzy. I took twice and was frustrated. Last night, however, I ran up it with no takes, and didn't feel any pain. Soreness? Yes. Pain? No. Is that a big difference? I don't know.

Later in the evening, I decided to jump on a 5.11, which really isn't an 11, but I've already discussed this in another post. The point was that I wanted to see just how much I needed my thumb to get up a harder route. I ran up it clean and had no problems doing so.

I don't think I'm back, but I getting stronger and feeling better. I'm not sure when I'll be able to pop my thumb again, and I'm not sure when I'll take the splint off for good, but as long as I'm not feeling pain while climbing I should be on the mend. I'm glad it doesn't hurt so much that I can't climb at all. Then I wouldn't be able to post this unread drivel on the web for all to see. God forbid.

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