Recently I was at my doctor’s office for my annual checkup. As we chatted, he mentioned that he is seeing more and more patients with trigger finger. In fact, trigger finger is one of the most common hand conditions, with about 2% to 3% Americans suffering this condition at some point in their life. For diabetics, that risk is more like 10%.
Trigger finger is an inflammation of the tendon in the finger, which causes the tendon to swell until it can’t slide smoothly through the sheath of tissue that anchors the tendon to the bone.
Here’s a great animation explaining what happens with trigger finger: link.
The standard medical treatment for trigger finger is to get a steroid shot into the finger; however, these shots tend to be ineffective. According to an article in the journal, Clinics in Orthopedic Surgery, a single steroid injection is effective only about a third of the time, requiring a second or even a third injection. And according to the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, American version, “At one year following injection, 56% of the digits had a recurrence of symptoms.”
If the trigger finger persists, your doctor will likely recommend surgery, permanently severing the sheath inside your finger, which will relieve the problem but leave you with a recovery time of up to 6 weeks and the life-long loss of that sheath. You will never again get trigger finger at that site, but recurrence in other fingers is common, because you haven’t addressed the root cause of the problem—the inflammation.
Wouldn’t it be better if you can solve the problem naturally, without the need for surgery or shots? Since inflammation is a major factor in trigger finger, here are some guidelines for reducing inflammation and relieving trigger finger naturally.
1. The first step is to avoid the foods that create or worsen inflammation in the first place, particularly sugar and sweets. Other foods that may aggravate inflammation include meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and alcohol.
2. Base your diet on foods that soothe inflammation: plant-based foods such as whole grains, beans, and fresh vegetables, particularly leafy greens. These foods are great for helping us avoid inflammation in the first place, or, if you’re already suffering from inflammation, calming it down.
3. In addition, there are certain foods especially good at reducing inflammation. One of the best is seaweed, due to its high content of eicosapentanoic acid, an anti-inflammatory compound. Other foods shown to relieve inflammation include: broccoli, asparagus, nuts, cherries, blueberries, açai berries, cranberries, and other dark-colored berries, apples, grapes, nectarines, tangerines, oranges, watermelon, green tea, chamomile tea, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, rosemary, sage, mint, cumin, thyme and paprika.
4. Strive for variety in your diet. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “greater variety in fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower inflammation…”
5. You can use a topical remedy to take down swelling in the inflamed area. Buy a block of tofu at the grocery store and immerse the inflamed area in the tofu for about 30 minutes several times per day until the swelling subsides. (Throw out the used tofu after each application and use new tofu each time.) Tofu is much better than ice to soothe swelling because while ice works temporarily by chilling the tissue, it tends to harden the injury and drive it inward, whereas tofu draws the heat out of the body altogether. (Don’t eat the tofu afterward!)
In the meantime, you may wish to have the affected finger placed in a splint. This will allow the tendon and sheath to rest, preventing the area from becoming more irritated. According to a 2012 article in The Journal of Hand Therapy, 87% of patients who wore custom-made splints required no further treatment, although the patients had to wear the splints for about 5 weeks.
In addition, acupuncture on the affected arm, hand and finger can help relieve the problem and eliminate the need for more drastic measures.
Finally, many cases of trigger finger will eventually disappear, all by themselves, without any treatment whatsoever.
Natural treatments for trigger finger are safe, low-cost, non-invasive, and they also help remedy the root cause of the problem—not only will your trigger finger disappear, but you may also prevent other inflammatory injuries such as tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.