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Trigger Finger

What is the trigger finger?


        “Trigger finger” is a medical condition in which the tendon of the hands becomes inflamed and swells up, causing those affected to have fingers stuck in either a bent or straight position (Sydner, 2022). 

How does the trigger finger happen?

It 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. 

Many risk factors are associated with trigger fingers, such as arthritis, diabetes, age, sex, occupation, and gout (American Society for Surgery of the Hand, n.d.). For instance, trigger finger occurs more commonly in women, older individuals, those with underlying health conditions, and those who work jobs requiring them to make repetitive motions with their fingers and/or hands. 

What are the symptoms of the trigger finger?


Symptoms of the trigger finger include discomfort in the base of the finger, swelling within the tendon, stiffness or inability to bend the fingers, unusual sensations in the finger that are mildly painful, snapping sensation when moving the finger, or a bump on the base of the finger (WebMD, n.d.).

What are the causes of the trigger finger in Oriental Medicine?

In Oriental medicine, trigger fingers are attributed to the blockage of vital energy, Qi, around the finger. The smooth flow of Qi is essential in TCM/OM because it acts as a life force that flows throughout the body, helping individuals stay balanced and thus live healthily (Kirkham, 2017). When people have trigger fingers, it is because Qi is blocked, the blood in the finger is stagnant, and there is poor blood flow, resulting in inflammation (Vichaivej International Hospital Group, n.d.).

What can Oriental Medicine do to treat the trigger finger?

         TCM/OM approaches are effective in improving blood flow and decreasing inflammation. For instance, acupuncture can be used to treat trigger fingers because needle points effectively stimulate blood flow, which helps reduce inflammation (Vichaivej International Hospital Group, n.d.). When needles are inserted near the area of the trigger finger, it releases the blood stagnation gently and allows the blood to start flowing again slowly (Lott, 2020). It stops the pain and inflammation from occurring, and it has been found that acupuncture is effective in up to 80% of patients who use it to treat trigger fingers (Vichaivej International Hospital Group, n.d.). 


         Acupressure is also an effective and cost-efficient approach for treating trigger fingers. Acupressure is applied to specific points of the body to encourage energy flow. Two acupressure points used to treat trigger fingers can be found in the wrist as well as between the fourth and fifth fingers. Putting pressure on these points can help stimulate vital energy through the meridians, the pathways through which Qi flows (Lott, 2020). In addition, it helps regulate organ functions and eliminate any pathogens causing inflammation. 


          Many traditional Chinese herbs can be taken to treat joint pain. TCM/OM practitioners often use herbs to encourage the body to heal itself, typically using at-home remedies. One TCM herb that is helpful with treating trigger fingers is called “Job’s Tears”. It is used to encourage fluid circulation within the body, and its main ingredients include coix seeds, rice, and water (All Things Health, 2022). There are also herbal pills that can be used to treat trigger fingers, such as Tian Qi pills, known to treat pain and inflammation. Herbal medications can also be used to treat joint pain in general, and many of them can be found at home. For instance, studies show ginger, boswellia, cayenne, turmeric, and chamomile are effective herbs for easing joint pain (Inc, 2022). 


         Moxibustion is the application of a burning herb to a needle near the area of pain to help decrease pain and swelling (WebMD, n.d.). It is also an excellent treatment for trigger fingers because it is a form of herbal heat therapy that can stimulate the flow of Qi (Jamaica Gleaner, 2013). It increases the blood flow to the fingers and reduces the prevalence of inflammation. 


        Cupping is also an effective treatment for trigger fingers because it decompresses the body to loosen tissues and improve the flow of blood (ProFysio Physical Therapy, 2021). It helps reduce chronic illnesses that have symptoms such as joint stiffness. When cups are placed on an affected area, it creates a suction that stimulates blood flow, releases tension, and reduces inflammation (Patterson, 2020). It also soothes the nervous system, providing benefits to psychological symptoms such as stress, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety (Patterson, 2020). It is recommended to use cupping with other treatments, such as physical therapy, for the best health outcomes. 


          There are also lifestyle changes that individuals can adopt that would help decrease the prevalence of trigger fingers. It is essential to ensure that the fingers and hands can get adequate rest from activities that involve excessive force or repetitive movements on the fingers (Mayo Clinic, 2022). Staying away from machinery that produces vibrations or requires prolonged stagnant postures goes a long way in helping the hand rest (Mayo Clinic, 2022). It is also helpful to do finger exercises to decrease pain and stiffness and encourage mobility in the fingers. For example, bending the fingers, holding them in a position, stretching the wrist, and turning the hands are essential exercises to reduce pain (MediLexicon International, n.d.). It is also important to consider using a splint to help the tendon rest because it holds the finger in a straight position, not allowing it to move (Cohen Winters Plastic Surgery, 2022), which helps facilitate rest and allows for a quicker recovery.

          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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