Trigger finger is a painful condition that affects the tendon in one of your fingers. You can have the ailment in more than one finger at a time and you can even have it in fingers of both hands. When you have this condition, it is difficult to bend your affected fingers properly. Once bent, they are difficult to open. You may have to pry your fingers up with your other hand. Serious cases may require surgery or corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain. Other times, physical therapy can be a big help. Here's how.
When your tendon is inflamed, it has difficulty passing through the sheath of tissue that forms a tunnel in your finger. This constant irritation causes the tendon sheath to develop scars that make the problem even worse. Your physical therapist may perform a trigger point massage on the areas of your finger that hurt when pressed. This breaks apart scar tissue so your tendon can glide more easily. A light surface massage increases blood flow in your finger, which helps speed healing of the damaged tissues. Your therapist may teach you how to do self-massage at home between your visits to the therapy clinic.
Another thing your physical therapist may do is fit you for a finger or hand brace and teach you how to put it on every night. When you have trigger finger, the pain and stiffness are usually worse when you first get up in the morning due to inactivity. Once you wake up and start using your hands, the pain usually decreases. Also, when you don't wear a brace, you can clench your hands during your sleep, which might cause your trigger finger to lock up and wake you up with severe pain. The brace you wear for this condition keeps your finger stretched so you experience less pain and stiffness first thing in the morning. You put on the brace before you go to bed and then take it off in the morning. You may have to wear it for several weeks until your tendon and sheath have healed.
There are various exercises that help trigger finger. If your condition is caused by repetitive grasping because of the type of work you do, the therapist can teach you exercises that strengthen muscles that are underused to counterbalance your strong grasping muscles. The muscles that create the grasping motion may be so overdeveloped they cause an imbalance that leads to problems in your hands and fingers. Other exercises focus on stretching your fingers. You might do this with your hand in warm water to get your fingers more limber and to help with pain. Your therapist may have you spread your fingers apart as far as possible and bend them backwards as far as you can to lengthen the tendon so it becomes more flexible and supple. You may also squeeze on a stress ball or crumple paper. Once you've learned the proper moves, your therapist will probably want you to go through the exercises every day at home while your condition improves.
It may take several weeks to heal from trigger finger. It's also possible the condition will return. Physical therapy may help you heal faster and experience less pain. Once you learn the exercises and massage techniques, you can treat yourself at home at the first sign of trigger finger pain and hopefully prevent serious complications that require surgery or other medical treatments. For more information, talk to a professional like DeSoto Memorial Hospital.