March 31, 2009 in Features

Dr. Gott: Recurring trigger finger proves difficult to treat

Peter H. Gott, M.D.
 

Dear Dr. Gott: I get trigger finger. This is the third one I have gotten in the past two years. A cortisone shot does nothing, and surgery is the only thing that has helped me. The episodes are very painful, and I want to know if there is anything to prevent them from happening again.

Dear Reader: Sadly, you are probably a pro when it comes to recognizing the symptoms of a trigger finger. However, I will bring my reading audience up to speed before I answer your question.

Trigger finger is a condition in which a finger joint catches in a bent position (partial dislocation). A person might be able to straighten the finger with a gun’s triggerlike motion and snap it back into proper position, thus the name. More severe cases might lock the bent finger, and a person will be unable to straighten it. More than one finger can be affected at the same time, and both hands can become involved.

Common causes are repetitive motion of the fingers of the dominant hand at work, during sports, or with some hobbies.

While I can’t say you won’t continue to have symptoms, there are several steps you can take toward that goal. Soak your hand or hands in warm water. Stretch the fingers of one hand, and massage the palm and each digit with your opposite hand. Repeat the same process with the opposite hand. While you sit in front of the television in the evening, apply gentle massage to each hand for several minutes.

Avoid repetitive gripping whenever possible. If necessary, break up the routine with different hand exercises between the repetitions and take periodic rest breaks.

Use over-the-counter drugs such as Advil, Aleve or Motrin for minor pain symptoms.

If more severe problems occur, seek the services of your physician. You are no stranger to steroids, but apparently they don’t provide relief, so let’s bypass that option.

Trigger-finger release can be performed under local anesthesia. I don’t know whether you have had this performed, but you might want to speak with your physician about the possibility.

A final resort is surgery under anesthesia for tendon release, a procedure you have apparently already undergone.

I urge you to get into a stretching-exercise routine as a preventive measure. Start gently, and work slowly.

To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Managing Chronic Pain.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a check or money order for $2 to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.

Dear Dr. Gott: I want to tell you about my experience with vitamin C tablets to stop urinary-tract infections. My urologist suggested two vitamin C tablets (1,000 milligrams each) daily. I have been free of UTIs for many years with this remedy. My urologist said it is more difficult for an infection to take hold in acidic urine.

Dear Reader: Your urologist is right on the money. Vitamin C helps increase the amount of acid in urine. As a result, the bladder is not an appealing environment for harmful bacteria. You have found a remedy that works for you and may help other readers. Thank you for writing.

Dr. Gott is a retired physician. He writes for United Media. Readers can write to him c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th fl., New York, NY 10016.


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