If you’ve ever had at least one finger that hurts or doesn’t work properly, you know how frustrating this can be. Even doing simple, everyday tasks can be challenging as well as painful. One of the most common finger problems is a condition known as trigger finger. Here’s what you need to know about trigger finger and how physical therapy is one of the best ways to treat it.
What Is Trigger Finger?
Perhaps you’ve heard of trigger finger, which is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, but aren’t quite sure what it is. Simply put, this is a finger disorder in which a finger suddenly becomes locked, stuck, or bent in a downward position. It’s so-named “trigger finger” because the affected finger resembles a gun trigger that’s pulled back and then released.
The Anatomy of the Hand and Fingers
To better understand trigger finger, it first helps to be familiar with the basic anatomy of your hand and fingers. Each hand is made up of 38 bones, including 28 finger bones (phalanges) and 10 metacarpal bones. As for your fingers, they consist of ligaments, which are supportive tissues that connect bone to bone. The fingers also contain tendons, which are fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone. Additionally, a protective sheath surrounds each tendon.
Causes of Trigger Finger
When the tendon of an affected sheath becomes inflamed and irritated, trigger finger develops. As a result, the tendon doesn’t glide properly through the sheath. When the tendon sheath continues to be irritated, scarring can occur and bumps can form that cause even more disruption in the motion of the tendon.
It’s important to recognize the symptoms of trigger finger, which include:
- Finger stiffness, which happens mostly during the morning
- Popping or clicking, along with pain, whenever straightening or bending your finger
- A finger that locks and fails to straighten
- A bump (nodule) on the base of your thumb or finger that feels sore
There are several ways to treat trigger finger. The type of treatment depends on the severity of the condition.
- Thumb braces or splints are common treatments.
- Some people have steroid injections or even surgery if more conservation treatments don’t work.
- Surgery involves discharging the sheath surrounding the affected tendon, so there’s more room for the tendon to glide normally.
The Benefits of Physical Therapy
Physical therapy, which is the least invasive approach, can be highly effective. A skilled and trained physical therapist can set up an individualized plan for improving the range of motion and strengthening your finger while easing pain. Thus, you can return to your normal mobility and level of function. Consider how your physical therapist is trained to detect possible impairments so that it’s less likely you’ll be injured later.
Physical therapists use several methods. For example, there’s manual therapy, such as soft tissue massage, for pain reduction and the catching of the finger. Stretching exercises, which help in maintaining finger motion, are also used. Other treatments used by physical therapists include icing and/or heating applications for reducing pain. Furthermore, physical therapists show their patients finger exercises to do at home, besides educating them on the correct ways to use their hands and fingers.
People Most at Risk
Some people are more at risk for trigger finger than others, such as:
- People who have rheumatoid arthritis
- Adults in their 50s and 60s
- Those working at jobs requiring repetitive hand motions and gripping, such as typists, construction workers, and musicians
- People engaging in hobbies, such as knitting and crocheting, that entail repeated hand movements.
Other Considerations and Warnings
- The disorder can occur on any of your fingers.
- While some cases are mild, others are extremely painful.
- Get medical attention as soon as possible for a hot, inflamed finger joint since this can suggest an infection.
- Sometimes, trigger finger is a complication from having surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. This is typical during the six months following surgery.
The Bottom Line
- Don’t ignore the symptoms of trigger finger.
- Before considering surgery, try more conservative approaches.
- Physical therapy is extremely effective in treating the problem.
You don’t have to continue to suffer from trigger finger. Contact Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation at 570-208-2787 and learn more about how physical therapy can help you get back to living your life again.
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