If you have been training for a couple of years in BJJ you will most likely have suffered a finger injury of some kind. Your fingers may have become bumpier around the knuckles and may occasionally ache and feel like they are swelled. This injury is commonly known as osteoarthrosis and is difficult to avoid if training regularly in the Gi. Many people simply refer to it as BJJ finger pain.
Grip fighting in BJJ is tough going on the fingers. You grip the Gi with all your strength while your opponent uses heavy resistance to break your grips. Years of repeated damage and sprains can result in osteoarthrosis in the fingers. This arthritis may be visible in the form of lesions and calcific spurs of the finger joint cartilage.
Symptoms of hand osteoarthritis:
- Ache when using hands
- joint stiffness (especially in morning)
- reduced finger mobility
- weak grip
- swelling and tenderness in the knuckles
- Pain eases when fingers warmed
Avoid heavy grips when possible
This one may be difficult depending on the type of game you play. If you play a lot of spider guard then the chances are you are more likely to injure your fingers. However, perhaps you can also play half guard where grip fighting is not as important. Try to mix up your style to avoid constantly playing positions that require heavy grip fighting.
If grip fighting regularly you should learn when to let go and when to grip hard. For example there is no point in gripping 100% if your opponent is in a position to easily break your grips.
Rest the hands
If your hands are very sore then you should take a break. The arthrtihis is the result of the constant damage of cartlidge that does not get a chance to heal. By resting your sore hand you can give it a chance to heal.
While nogi does include grip fighting it is not as significant. Without the Gi, the grips formed in Nogi are not as strong and there is a reduced risk of finger injury. Training in the Gi fits nicely with the last option and may appeal to those of you that do not want to lose mat time.
The benefits of taping are debated but many BJJ players do it religiously. By taping the knuckles and fingers you can provide added support which relieves the pressure on some of the most vulnerable parts of your hand.
There a lots of good resources on finger taping available online.
There are a myriad of treatment options available for hand arthritis. Most of them involve heat treatment and finger strengthening.
Essentially a stress ball The Friendly Swede Hand Grips allow you to exercise your hands and fingers. Great for stretching sore fingers and building strength in the joints that will better be able to withstand grip fighting.
The Therabath Paraffin Bath uses warm wax to relieve muscle stiffness by increasing blood flow to aid in rehabilitation. Heat soothes the sore joints and many people find it very relaxing.