According to the Mayo Clinic:
Trigger finger is a condition in which one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position. Your finger may bend or straighten with a snap — like a trigger being pulled and released.
Trigger finger is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis (stuh-NO-sing ten-o-sin-o-VIE-tis). It occurs when inflammation narrows the space within the sheath that surrounds the tendon in the affected finger. If trigger finger is severe, your finger may become locked in a bent position.
As you might imagine (or may know personally), trigger finger is not only painful, but can be debilitating, especially if you use your hands for your livelihood. Such was the case with my patient, Tom. He was a guitarist who worked as a music therapist. When I first saw him, he was quite troubled. Let me have Tom tell you his story through his testimonial:
As a Music Therapist, my ability to play guitar on a daily basis is an integral part of my job. Without the proper use of my hands, I wouldn’t be able to make a living. Not long ago a stage light fell from a lighting tree and – while instinctively reaching to rescue the fixture – my fingers were pulled backward by the weight of the falling equipment. Consequently, I developed a ‘trigger finger.’ My finger would suddenly flip open whenever I was attempting to make a fist or enclose my knuckles around an object… or simply attempt to play my guitar. Twice, I had doctors shoot cortisone into the hand, but after a few days the loss of mobility would return.
Next, the doctors were recommending surgery, which held no guarantee for mobility to ever be restored. It was then I discovered Dr. Perrine, who felt acupuncture could be of help. At first, I was apprehensive. In the past, I have fainted at the mere sight of needles – would acupuncture really help? But, David’s kind and gentle demeanor made me feel at ease. The treatment was comfortable and without any negative consequence. After a few short weeks, the treatments were taking hold and my finger was returned back to normal. My guitar playing abilities were restored – and my job saved. Thank you, David!
That’s Tom’s story, but what does the research reveal? Is it effective and if so, how does it work? Since trigger finger is generally an inflammatory condition, it makes sense that if we can reduce the inflammation, we can resolve the problem. As Tom noted in his story, the medical answer was cortisone injections. Although they may help temporarily, they can simply cover up the symptoms. Acupuncture, on the other hand, helps the body heal itself. You can treat the symptoms (injection/medication) or correct the cause (acupuncture). What’s most beneficial in regards to acupuncture’s affect on inflammation is the fact that it is natural and localized. Cortisone injections are localized but not natural while oral medications are neither localized nor natural.
In a recent study from the Journal of the British Medical Acupuncture, 15 patients suffering from trigger finger were giving a trial of acupuncture. The findings were significant. According to the researchers:
Pain and snapping severity were significantly improved immediately after the first treatment. Significant improvement in the severity of snapping was also observed as treatment progressed. We postulate that acupuncture may reduce inflammation/swelling of the synovial membrane of the tendon sheath, which predominates when the disorder is of short duration.
If you find yourself “stuck” with no relief in sight, make it a “point” to try acupuncture. As trigger finger is not a life threatening condition that requires immediate resolution, give it at least 8-10 treatments before you move on to other alternatives such as injections or surgery. It might amaze you how significant and longstanding your relief may be.