Alleviate Trigger Finger with TCM
What is the trigger finger?
Trigger finger is a medical condition that causes the tendons in the fingers to become inflamed and swollen. This can make it difficult to straighten or bend the affected fingers, and the fingers may feel like they are "catching" or "locking" in place (Sydner, 2022).
How does the trigger finger happen?
Trigger finger occurs when the pulley, a soft tissue covering the tendon, becomes too thick (American Society for Surgery of the Hand, n.d.). A trigger finger can also be triggered if the lining outside the tendon gets thicker or the tendon itself becomes too large. The tendon is supposed to glide through the pulley smoothly; however, this is not possible if the pulley becomes too large. In addition, the structure of the finger must be a perfect size; otherwise, it can cause problems.
The exact cause of trigger finger is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including (American Society for Surgery of the Hand, n.d.):
Repetitive use of the fingers
Injury to the finger
Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and gout
Age (trigger finger is more common in people over 40)
Gender (trigger finger is more common in women)
Occupation (trigger finger is more common in people whose jobs require repetitive hand movements)
What are the symptoms of the trigger finger?
The symptoms of trigger finger can vary from person to person, but some of the most common symptoms include (WebMD, n.d.):
Discomfort or pain in the base of the finger
Swelling within the tendon
Stiffness or inability to bend or straighten the fingers
Unusual sensations in the finger, such as a feeling of "catching" or "locking" in the finger or a snapping sensation when moving the finger
A bump on the base of the finger
What are the causes of the trigger finger in Oriental Medicine?
The smooth flow of Qi is essential in TCM/OM because it acts as a life force that flows throughout the body along meridians, helping individuals stay balanced and thus live healthily (Kirkham, 2017). In Oriental medicine, the trigger finger is seen as a blockage of the body's vital energy, Qi, around the finger; the blood in the finger is stagnant. This blockage can lead to inflammation and pain in the finger (Vichaivej International Hospital Group, n.d.).
What can Oriental Medicine do to treat the trigger finger?
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Oriental medicine (OM) are holistic approaches to health that focus on restoring balance and harmony in the body. These approaches can be effective in treating a variety of conditions, including trigger finger. One of the ways that TCM/OM can help treat trigger fingers is by improving blood flow and decreasing inflammation.
Acupuncture is a technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific points of the body. These points are believed to be connected to meridians, or channels, through which Qi, or vital energy, flows. When needles are inserted at these points, they can help unblock Qi, improve blood flow, and reduce inflammation and pain (Lott, 2020). A study found that acupuncture effectively treated trigger fingers in up to 80% of patients (Vichaivej International Hospital Group, n.d.). The study participants received a total of 10 acupuncture treatments over the course of 2 weeks. Another study found that acupuncture effectively reduced pain and improved function in patients with trigger fingers. The study participants received a total of 12 acupuncture treatments over the course of 6 weeks (Inoue et al., 2016).
Acupressure is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) technique that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body. These points are believed to be connected to meridians, or channels, through which Qi, or vital energy, flows. When applied to these points, pressure can help stimulate and unblock Qi and improve blood flow. It can help regulate organ functions and reduce inflammation and pain. Acupressure can be an effective and cost-efficient treatment for trigger fingers. Two acupressure points often used to treat trigger fingers are located in the wrist and between the fourth and fifth fingers. These points are called the "LI4" point and the "LI5" point, respectively. To apply acupressure to the LI4 point, find the fleshy area on the back of your hand, between the base of your thumb and index finger. Apply firm pressure to this point for 3-5 minutes. To apply acupressure to the LI5 point, find the web of skin between your fourth and fifth fingers. Apply firm pressure to this point for 3-5 minutes.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners often use herbs to encourage the body to heal itself. Some traditional Chinese herbs helpful in poor circulation and inflammation of trigger fingers include:
Job's tears: Job's tears is a herb used to encourage fluid circulation within the body. It also reduces inflammation (All Things Health, 2022).
Tian Qi pills: Tian Qi pills are a traditional Chinese herbal formula used to treat pain and inflammation.
Ginger: Ginger is a popular spice with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties (Inc, 2022).
Boswellia: Boswellia is a resin that is extracted from the Boswellia tree. It has been shown to be effective in reducing inflammation.
Cayenne: Cayenne is a hot pepper containing capsaicin, a compound with pain-relieving properties (Inc, 2022).
Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice containing curcumin, a compound with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties (Inc, 2022).
Chamomile: Chamomile is a flowering plant that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions, including joint pain (Inc, 2022).
Cupping is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapy that involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. This suction can help decompress the body, loosen tissues, and improve the flow of blood (ProFysio Physical Therapy, 2021). Cupping is an effective treatment for the trigger finger. When cups are placed on the affected area, the suction can help to release tension in the tendons and muscles, reduce inflammation, and improve blood flow (Patterson, 2020). It can help to relieve pain and stiffness and improve range of motion. Cupping is also thought to have other benefits, such as soothing the nervous system, reducing stress, improving sleep, and alleviating anxiety (Patterson, 2020). It is recommended to use cupping with other treatments, such as physical therapy, for the best health outcomes.
Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapy that involves burning mugwort near the affected area. The burning herb's heat can help stimulate Qi's flow and improve blood flow. It can help to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling (WebMD, n.d.). Moxibustion can be an effective treatment for trigger fingers. When the burning herb is applied to the affected area, the heat can help to relax the tendons and muscles, reduce inflammation, and improve Qi and blood flow. It can help to relieve pain and stiffness and improve the range of motion (Jamaica Gleaner, 2013).
There are some lifestyle changes that individuals can adopt to help prevent trigger fingers. These include:
Resting the fingers and hands: It is important to give your fingers and hands a break from activities that involve excessive force or repetitive movements, which could include avoiding activities such as typing, texting, or playing video games for extended periods of time (Mayo Clinic, 2022).
Avoiding machinery that produces vibrations: Vibrations can irritate the tendons in the fingers and make trigger fingers more likely. If you work with machinery that produces vibrations, take breaks often and wear gloves to protect your hands (Mayo Clinic, 2022).
Doing finger exercises: Finger exercises can help to keep the tendons in the fingers flexible, prevent them from becoming inflamed, decrease pain and stiffness, and encourage mobility. Some simple finger exercises include bending your fingers, holding them in a position, stretching your wrist, and turning your hands (MediLexicon International, n.d.).
Using a splint: A splint can help keep the finger straight and prevent it from moving. It can help the tendon rest, reduce inflammation and pain, and facilitate a quicker recovery (Cohen Winters Plastic Surgery, 2022).
At Rapha Acupuncture in Newport Beach, we are a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)/Oriental medicine (OM) clinic specializing in men's and women’s health. We can help you design the best treatment plan for your trigger finger! Using acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbs customized to your symptoms, Rapha Acupuncture provides a natural and holistic solution. Give us a call today!
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