Sunday, June 19, 2011
Giving Me the Finger
WHAT THE HECK IS THIS?
Not long ago I woke up to find the ring finger of my right hand bent back like a brown "C," as if it was pointing back at me, or preparing to flick something away. Even worse, it was locked in that position. And it hurt! I grabbed it with my other hand and tried to straighten it out. After hearing a small but audible "click," it was back in its normal position.
Now it's happening to the same digit dozens of times each day. Since I use that finger, along with its nine close friends, to do important things like write, make money and deliver these messages to you, this is no minor inconvenience.
It's an incredibly weird feeling when a part of your body doesn't respond to your mental commands. When it locks, I stare at my finger and think, "Bend! BEND! I, your master, ORDER you to return to your regular place!"
Like I did when I learned I had kidney failure, my first move was to the World Wide Interweb to do some fast, intense medical research. What I have is actually quite common, Google tells me. O, fortunate me.
It's called "trigger finger," or stenosing tenosynovitis. We'll just stick with "trigger finger." And according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Web site, even with all the advances in modern medicine nobody seems to know exactly what causes it. Marvelous.
Here's what the orthopods do know:
• It happens when the flexor tendon, which controls the movement of your fingers and thumbs, becomes irritated or actually gets caught for a moment on a tiny nodule growing in the sheath that keeps the tendon in place.
• It is more common in women than men. (Lucky, lucky me.)
• It occurs most frequently in people between 40 and 60. (Check.)
• It is more common in people who have certain medical conditions, lilke rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. (Wait a minute: I've got diabetes, too?)
(Oh, no. It's probably the kidney thing. Never mind.)
• It may occur after heavy hand use or activities that strain the hand. (You mean, like typing millions of words over a 35-year career?)
Fortunately, a woman at our church, Theresa Miller, is a well-known physical therapist in the area. Unfortunately, she couldn't hold out much hope.
There is no "cure" for stenosing tenosynovitis, Theresa told me, and the best treatments are rest, perhaps some heat, and anti-inflammatory medicines. Occasionally a doctor will inject a steroid medication DIRECTLY INTO THE FINGER to help relieve the pain. (I'll need a moment here.)
As a last resort, surgery may be recommended to prevent permanent stiffness. In any case, the options don't sound particularly sunny.
Karen has become very adept at massaging the sides of my finger in just the right places when it locks to ease it pack to full extension. Theresa suggested a special finger splint to aid in the resting process, and I'll likely pick one up the next time I'm near a medical supply outlet. So in the future, if you should read anything I write that suddenly starts missing all its "Ls" and "Os," it's probably because I'm trying to finish my w rk whi e wearing the sp int.