Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition where you feel pain, stiffness and a sensation of clicking or locking when you try to bend or straighten your finger. It can happen to any of your fingers, but it usually affects your thumb or ring finger.
So what exactly is going on?
Muscles move bones. They are attached to the bones by cords called tendons. In your hand, there are tendons that attach the muscles on the front of your forearm to your fingers. When the muscles contract, the tendons pull your finger bones together to make a fist or grab an object. Each of these tendons passes through a tunnel called a tendon sheath, which helps it glide smoothly when the muscles contract. There are also bands of tissue called pulleys that hold the tendon and it’s sheath close to the bone.
Sometimes, one of the pulleys (usually the A1 pulley at the base of your finger) gets irritated. It can become thickened and inflamed. The tendon may also get irritated and develop a nodule on it’s surface. When the nodule gets pulled under the thickened pulley, it can catch. This can be painful, cause a “pop” or even make your finger lock up so that it gets stuck in a bent position.
The exact cause of Trigger Finger is unclear. It has been suggested that repetitive forceful grasping may contribute to the condition. It also appears to be more common in patients with certain medical conditions.
The Good News
Two of my colleagues, Drs. Anthony Lombardi and Joey Walker have developed an electro-acupuncture protocol for treating Trigger Finger. They published it in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine. I had the good fortune of learning the protocol from Dr. Lombardi a few months before it was published and have been using it to successfully reduce pain and improve function.