TRIGGER FINGER is a condition in which one of your fingers or thumb gets stuck in a bent position. Your finger may bend or straighten with a snap – like a trigger being pulled and released. Trigger Finger, or in medicalese stenosing tenosynovitis, is said to occur when inflammation narrows the space within the sheath that surrounds the tendon in the affected finger.
Stenosing: stenosis comes from the Greek stenos, “narrow.”
Teno: tendon is derived from the Latin tendere and the Greek teinein, both meaning “to stretch.”
Syno: refers to the fluid that lubricates the tendon sheaths within the joints.
Itis: is from the Greek meaning inflammation.
The cause is usually due to repetitive movements such as those made by dental hygienists as they scale your teeth and musicians using their forearms and fingers to bring you wonderful sounds or those who do a lot of hand work such as knitting, art, or carpentry.
According to my research there is no test for the problem, but the diagnosis is determined by the doctor examining the hand. Treatment typically consists of rest, exercise, injections, splinting or surgery, each of course with its limitations and/or side effects.
If you take a new chicken leg with the claw still attached and pull the tendon in the exposed end of the leg, the claw will contract. If you place your own arm on the table, palm up, and press on it with your other hand or elbow, your fingers will curl. As you can see from the illustrations, the tendons of the hand are attached to the muscles of your forearm.
TENDONS, MUSCLES, ITIS: My Experience
Over the years I’ve had numerous patients come to me with the diagnosis of trigger finger. They have tried the above treatments, usually with limited success.
Tendons attach muscles to bone. If the muscle is pulled short by repetitive movements, spasm, injury or abuse of some kind, it tugs on the tendon which gets irritated and becomes “itis” with attending pain, limited range of motion, poor performance, and weakness.
SOLUTION: Treat the Muscles in the Forearm and Hand
First find the trigger points that are causing the muscles to shorten. This can be done most easily if you place your arm on a pillow with the palm up. Put some kind of hand cream on the anterior (non-hairy) forearm. Make a fist with the other hand and using the knuckles, run your fist along the length of the muscle starting at the wrist and going up to the elbow and a bit beyond into the upper arm. You will want to make two or three S-L-O-W sweeps up the forearm stopping whenever you find a tender point and holding for 5 to 7 seconds. In Bonnie’s books this is called Seeking Massage.
Next put some hand cream on your hand. Use your other thumb to find the trigger points in your hand. Start at the heel of your hand and run your thumb down to between your fingers. Make four or five S-L-O-W sweeps.
Follow with the forearm stretch as shown here. Place your other hand on the fingers and PULSE the stretch. DON’T hold it.
Finally, you will want to squeeze the back and front and sides of your fingers between the knuckles looking for tender points and holding for 5 to 7 seconds when you find them.
You may have to treat yourself more than once. This usually depends on how long and how severe the problem is. Even after one treatment you will probably notice a difference in how your hand and fingers feel. Don’t give up. Do the exercises and then if necessary, treat your arm and hand again in a few days.
MUSCLES AND HABITS
The muscles of your arm and hand have habits, and like children they will need to be reminded often that they need to learn a new habit… relax! Connect your stretches to something you do during the day: get off the phone, stop at a red light, use the rest room, or get your coffee.
If you don’t have a trigger finger but are in a profession or have a sport or hobby that requires repetitive movement of the hand and forearm, use Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy® to prevent it from becoming a part of your life.
If you have questions or need help, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help.
Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®