Trigger Finger Treatments - Making the Best Choice By Jeff Anliker, LMT





Trigger Finger is often categorized as a repetitive strain condition that results when a nodule or adhesion that has formed on the tendon of single or multiple fingers becomes stuck within the pulley system (Tendon sheath) of the affected finger.  This condition may also be a result of an acute injury such as falling onto an outstretched hand, causing microtears in the tendon and the formation of scar tissue to develop on the affected tendon.

Trigger Finger is often painless and annoying, but in more severe cases, the condition can be quite painful and downright debilitating, impeding the ability to participate in simple everyday tasks. Many individuals deal with the condition for years before addressing it, causing long-term damage to the tendon(s) and preventing themselves from enjoying both work and recreational activities.  This type of condition needs to be addressed at onset to achieve a more successful outcome, no matter what the treatment is.  Although surgery is one of the most prevalent procedures performed, it is important to understand the full range of interventions that are available to treat Trigger Finger.

In general, rest and over-the-counter medications are the most common recommendations for treating the condition.  If symptoms are very mild or if they are just emerging, these are likely to be the strategies that a doctor would recommend.  Alternatively, they may recommend a splint or a cortisone injection.  These types of treatment for Trigger Finger, although more invasive, also tend to have mixed results. If the patient opts for a cortisone injection, they need to be prepared to come back for more as cortisone is designed to treat acute pain and it is not meant to be a long lasting cure.  It must also be noted that long term use of cortisone results in degeneration of the tendon and can cause serious, irreversible damage.

For these reasons, many people consider surgery for Trigger Finger.  Surgery is designed to broaden the joint tunnel so that the tendon can move through without getting stuck.  It may relieve stiffness and it may help to restore fingers that are permanently locked into a bent position.  However, pain and swelling from the surgical procedure can persist for some time and recovery to pre-injury levels of strength and dexterity can take years.  It is often reported that many patients experience more problems after surgery than prior to surgery.  The reason for this is because the procedure does not address the actual adhesions on the tendon, but instead makes room so that the adhesions can move through the pulley system. Cutting into any areas cause formation of more scar tissue, a problem that already exists with many Trigger Finger cases.

The best alternative approach to treating Trigger Finger is to rely on exercises and stretches that target the muscles and tendons in the affected area.  The exercises performed by rehabilitation devices like Flextend, Restore, Cats Paw and others can help to restore balance and integrity to the affected tendon by eliminating the nodule or adhesion altogether.  This is done through active stretches and exercises that break down the scar tissue on the tendon and that also help thin the tendon, allowing it to move freely through the pulley system / tendon sheath.

It is very important to utilize conservative therapy approaches prior to performing invasive methods of treatment.