How to Treat Trigger Finger Without Surgery
According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), stenosing tenosynovitis is a condition commonly known as “trigger finger.” If it occurs in the thumb then it is called “trigger thumb”.
Normally, our fingers bend with the help of a pulley system. There are several pulleys along the length of our fingers and thumb.
When we make a fist, the tendons in our fingers glide easily with the help of pulleys. These pulleys hold the tendons close to the bone. This is similar to how a line is held on a fishing rod. If the pulley becomes too thick or inflammed, the tendon becomes ‘stuck’ as it tries to pass through the first pulley. Hence, causing a ‘pop’, ‘catch’, ‘snap’, ‘ or ‘lock’.
Here is a helpful video from ASSH, showing the trigger finger signs and symptoms.
Now, this video provides a great visual of the signs and symptoms of trigger finger however, it explains injection, medication, and surgery are the treatments for trigger finger. While these are options; I’m here to explain that you can try conservative treatment BEFORE you go that route.
What this video, and many other sites lack, is a less invasive approach for those wanting to avoid surgery or injections. The conservative approach would be to rest the inflammed area by immobilizing or not allowing it to trigger. You may be thinking how can I do that; it’s my hand!
I’m talking splinting.
Luckily, there are small splints for the fingers that you can wear that allow functional use of your hand without letting it trigger and without being too cumbersome. The key is to avoid the triggering from happening. If you can do that for 24 hours a day, for 4- 6 weeks (sigh….I didn’t say it would be quick) you may be on the road to a less painful finger that does not ‘pop’ or ‘catch’ anymore!
This small splint fits just like a ring does on your finger. It will only block the middle joint (PIP joint) in the finger from moving and allow the knuckle (MP joint) and tip (DIP joint) to move.
Consequently, the middle joint can become stiff from not moving it for 4-6 weeks that is why it is important to perform gentle exercises. Just like in my video below, you should passively move the finger that is triggering through its full range of motion. Passively moving the finger with your other hand will not allow the tendon to get caught at the pulley. This only occurs when you actively flex the finger.
Watch our YouTube video on why the splint helps trigger finger and how to prevent stiffness in the triggering finger.
This may seem overwhelming however, it is a much cheaper option than surgery. Often a combination of anti-inflammatory diet, medications (prescribed by your doctor of course), massage, and splinting can help treat your trigger finger. However, as always, consult with your doctor.