Well, strictly speaking this is not to do with ageing as you can get a trigger finger at any age – even if they are more common in women over 40. However, it does have to do with the wonderful Ernest Keeling* so I thought I would slip it in while I remembered.
According to the NHS Choices website (from which I also took the diagram): Trigger finger is a condition that affects the tendons in the hand. When the affected finger or thumb is bent towards the palm, the tendon gets stuck and the finger clicks or locks.
It’s also known as stenosing tenosynovitis or stenosing tenovaginosis.
Trigger finger can affect one or more fingers. The symptoms can include pain, stiffness, clicking and a small lump in the palm at the base of the affected finger or thumb (known as a nodule).
(On the illustration, 1 is the inflamed tendon, 2 the carpal ligament and 3 a normal tendon.)
On the subject of treatment they say:
In some people, trigger finger may get better without treatment.
However, there is a chance that the affected finger or thumb could become permanently bent if not treated, which will make performing everyday tasks difficult.
If treatment is necessary, several different options are available, including:
- Rest and medication – avoiding certain activities and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help relieve pain.
- Splinting – this involves strapping the affected finger to a plastic splint to help ease your symptoms.
- Corticosteroid injections – steroids are medicines that may be used to reduce swelling.
- Surgery on the affected sheath – surgery involves releasing the affected sheath to allow the tendon to move freely again. This is a relatively minor procedure generally used when other treatments have failed. It can be up to 100% effective, although you may need to take two to four weeks off work to fully recover.
When consulting Ernest Keeling about my dodgy hip I also asked him about my dodgy finger (which I had not identified as a trigger finger – I just knew that it got stuck both painfully and frequently).
He explained that the problem with tendons was that the blood flow to them was poor so that if they got strained or tired it was hard to get enough blood to them for them to effect efficient repairs. The answer, he suggested, was to massage the base of the finger (where the tendon is inflamed in the illustration) really hard to create heat and better blood flow which hopefully would improve matters.
So that is what I have been doing for the last six months. Whenever I think about it I rub the base of my third finger with the thumb of the other hand really hard until both get hot. Often just 30 seconds worth. And, sure enough, although the finger does still very occasionally get stuck when I close my fist very tight round a knife handle or some such, most of the time it is absolutely fine. NSAID free, splint free, steroid free and surgery free!
*Ernest Keeling – London NW3 – 020 7435 1740