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Trigger Finger Exercises

Why Trigger Finger Exercises Are Needed

Various trigger finger exercises are prescribed following surgery to correct the condition of a trigger finger or trigger thumb. Many times following surgery, the affected area is kept quiet and relatively motion free to enable healing to occur. This is only partially true following trigger finger surgery. The hand and fingers are encouraged to be exercised almost immediately after surgery, after the hand has recovered for a day or two. The trigger finger exercises are of course very gentle at first, increasing in effort as healing progresses, usually at rate such that the patient feels minimal discomfort.

A Cord And Pulley System - Too understand why this is so, it is informative to describe the situation which led to surgery in the first place. When you close the fingers of your hand, to grasp something, or to make a fist, you can envision a string or cord in your forearm being pulled in the direction of the elbow, and as this cord is pulled the fingers are pulled into a bent position. When the pulling on the cord stops, the fingers relax and return to the open hand position.

Next envision a separate cord going to the tip of each finger. We can of course bend our fingers and the thumb separately instead of all at once, but in either case, pulling the cord in any of these fingers causes the fingers to bend. The cords in this case are real, and are called tendons, which run along the bone. The tendons run under a collection of ligaments which, together with the bone, serve as a tunnel of sorts. The tendons have a slippery coating called tenosynovium, which in effect greases the skids, allowing the tendons to slide back and forth freely.

Speed Bump - Irritation or inflammation, such as that caused by rheumatoid arthritis, can cause the tendon to thicken somewhat, in which case the slippery tenosynovium begins to lose its effectiveness. Continued irritation may cause a bump or nodule to form on the tendon, impeding it’s back and forth movement. As the nodule increases in size, the effect on the tendon is something like hitting a speed bump. The finger will crack or snap as it is bent. If the nodule becomes large enough the tendon may become stuck, and the thumb or finger can be locked in the bent position.

Start Movements after 48 Hours - At some point in time, surgery will be necessary to correct the problem by separating tendons and ligaments and reducing or eliminating the nodule. The surgery is not major, and can often be performed using a local anesthetic such as Novocain. The hand may be bandaged and padded immediately following the surgery. Usually within a couple of days following the surgery, the fingers can be slowly bent or flexed. Within a week, trigger finger exercises can usually commence. These exercises primarily consist of alternately bending and straightening the fingers, first by using the other hand, and eventually under the affected fingers' own power.

Gradual Improvement - The name of the game as far as trigger finger exercises is "slow but steady". Bending and straightening exercises are done slowly, perhaps 5 or 10 repetitions at a time, on an off throughout the day. This will keep the muscles of the fingers and wrist exercised, as well as gradually increasing the range of motion of the affected fingers or thumb.

Trigger finger exercises are usually needed for at least three weeks after the surgery, or until the patient feels a full range of motion and can eventually clench and unclench the fingers without a problem. A longer time usually elapses before the hand can be used to lift very a heavy object or grip an object such as a power tool handle for any lengthy period of time. Extensive use of power tools with a pistol grip handle are one of the common causes of trigger fingers.


 


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