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Thread: Trigger Finger (s)

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    Registered User Lane Pryce's Avatar
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    Default Trigger Finger (s)

    About six weeks ago while at work I assisted the CT techs moving an obese pt to a hospital bed. Somehow I managed to hyper extend my left #2 and #3 index and middle fingers. Subsequently I now have 2 painfully sore trigger fingers. Appointment with the hand specialist tomorrow. Have any of you ever dealt with trigger finger before? Most times they heal without issues. Dang they sure are a nuisance while playing.
    Last edited by Lane Pryce; Sep-09-2021 at 7:12pm.
    J.Lane Pryce

  2. #2

    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    I’ve had two fingers and a thumb on my left hand lock up. The thumb responded to hydrocortisone the two other digits did not and I had them surgically corrected. The surgery is no big deal but you lose about 6 weeks of functional playing time. The good news is that it seems to work really well. I haven’t had any reoccurring problems in 10 yrs or so since I had the surgery. I think that most people get an injection first to see if that is a solution.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Exclamation Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    I prefer the name of Index finger ..
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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    If the triggering was caused by a recent injury, try everything in the book—anti-inflammatories, heat or ice, physical therapy, cortisone, more time—first. The surgery is usually smooth and simple as can be, but I had one go sideways and ended up with a quite compromised hand. One-in-a-million stuff, I'm sure, but even the most routine surgery carries a small risk, and hands are delicate.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    I have the beginnings of trigger finger in my left hand pinky. I only have it in the morning sometimes, and they say that's how it starts; only in the morning.
    I discovered that it only happens if I've slept with my hand balled up in a fist, and particularly if I have my fist under my pillow. I now make an effort to keep my hands relaxed and open when I sleep. That is, slip my open hand under the edge of a pillow or otherwise find a way to keep from making a fist, Because of that (I suppose) I almost never wake up with my finger triggering anymore. I understand that if one pays the requisite amount of dollars to visit a doctor they can prescribe devices that keep the hand in a relaxed open position at night, so apparently my strategy might have some merit.

    Incidentally, it can make for some interesting note selection when a left hand pinky decides to trigger while playing a stringed instrument!

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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    I jammed my thumb on a body-surfing attraction in a water park and it took two full years before I could play bar-chords on guitar without pain. Be prepared to gut it out for a while. Don't be discouraged, if this takes longer than you think.
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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    I had the beginning of trigger finger on my left hand index finger a couple years ago. My physical therapist said it was from repeated gripping motion ( playing our instruments for example) and this causes the tendons in your hand to tighten involuntarily. As John Hamlettt discussed above another symptom is tightening your fist while you sleep, which can actually aggravate the problem. My PT recommended a simple wrist brace available at yout drugstore. Put your thumb through the hole and tighten the straps and the stiffeners should be on the lower part of your wrist. This prevents your wrist from bending and the hand from clenching and relaxes the tendons. I was able to wear it at night and it took care of my problem. If you do buy one make sure you get the proper hand, left or right.
    And please note, I'm not a doctor or medical professional in any way. Just relating my experience.
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    Registered User Ken's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    I also recently came up with trigger fingers, the middle finger on both my right and left hand (and what was I doing with those middle fingers to cause this you ask :-) ). I did get the cortisone shots couple of days ago and it helped a lot but didn't make them totally better. On the plus side it doesn't seem to impact my playing, although playing has been impacted by age related arthritis and Polymyalgia Rheumatica. I used to pride myself on my jazz chords and that's out of the question so now its simpler two and three note chords. No problems playing fiddle tunes, melodies, and leads though so that is where I go now. One of my favorite quotes is from John Hartford (I think) "Style is based on limitations", so time to change styles. I agree with John that the sleeping position with my hands seems to make a big difference. Also like Bob's suggestion for the wrist braces and will be trying that too. Thanks.
    Peace

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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    I also recently came up with trigger fingers, the middle finger on both my right and left hand (and what was I doing with those middle fingers to cause this you ask :-) ).
    Mine was also a middle finger. When I went in for the surgery, the pre-op nurse said, "Oh yes, we have to get that fixed. That's your 'driving finger!'"

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    Registered User urobouros's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    I've had it a few times in my left middle & index fingers & once in my right thumb. The thumb required a cortisone shot but healed fine after a couple weeks. I needed a cortisone shot in my left index finger but also had a carpal tunnel repair in that hand as well. My father has nerve issues and it seems my son might also so I think we're predisposed. I also used to do a lot of power carving & playing with other sorts of power tools as well as working at a computer for a living so I'm always impressed that my hands aren't worse!
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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    Gracious! I'm not the only one with a grumpy left hand! Gee, and I just thought I was getting old. I am now wearing a brace at night, already got the shot, and am trying to be a good boy and avoid the knife. Still, standing with a crowd of similarly afflicted folks is better than sitting here with a mandolin that I haven't touched in a couple weeks.

    Good luck to all of you!
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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    Surgery is / should be the last resort. That being said I have had five digits surgically corrected. About six weeks without playing mandolin after surgery was my experience. I was able to start fiddling at about three weeks slowly and carefully with my noting hand. Good luck. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    I have the reverse of trigger finger. My left index won't bend all the way to the palm unless I play for a few minutes. (The ring finger on that hand never goes all the way to the palm since I popped a tendon in it. I guess I'm lucky to be able to play at all. )

    D.H.

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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    July 2020 I snapped the first knuckle tendon of my left ring finger, Mallet Finger.

    Doc said I'd heal, but I asked for an X-ray and referral to a specialist.

    About 2 months in a splint and another few in PT. Did not get back to playing for 9 months.

    However, I did get back playing keyboards and also drilled RH tasks so I came out better in a number of ways.

    Good luck!

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    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael H Geimer View Post
    July 2020 I snapped the first knuckle tendon of my left ring finger, Mallet Finger.

    Doc said I'd heal, but I asked for an X-ray and referral to a specialist.

    About 2 months in a splint and another few in PT. Did not get back to playing for 9 months.

    However, I did get back playing keyboards and also drilled RH tasks so I came out better in a number of ways.

    Good luck!
    Sounds familiar - I worked on lap steel for a few months.

    D.H.

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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    Sorry to hear anyone is dealing with this. Trigger finger is no fun, and even a little more threatening when it happens to a musician...

    My trigger fingers appeared early last year on the onset of winter in Southern California, turning up as a result of congenital RA. My left thumb and right ring finger were most affected. Along with the triggering, my left thumb-tip joint became unable to back-flex enough to run on the back of instrument necks the way it normally had been able to do, and my right ring finger became unable to forward-flex at the tip, second and third joints. My biggest concern was with the left thumb as I was used to back flexing the tip for playing banjo and mandolin. The right ring finger was a concern primarily for banjo playing and for slap-playing the double bass. Both fingers produced serious pain when playing anything.

    I did serious reading and saw a DPT and an OT specialist. Surgery was out of the question due to the pandemic and putting off non-emergency procedures, plus honestly I had not seen or read about great results regarding trigger finger surgeries, so I was just as happy with trying other methods. The first recommendation from both of these professionals was wearing braces to immobilize the fingers enough that they could rest and allow the swelling to go down. I began wearing braces on both fingers 24/7, and within about a week the pain was reduced enough to experiment with instruments with the fingers. As long as the fingers did not flex enough to trigger, the pain didn't return, but the right ring finger in particular wanted to flex naturally and if it did so it would get stuck in the trigger position and become painful and become an obstruction for doing anything useful. So I continued wearing the brace to keep it straight. The thumb didn't want to naturally flex like the left ring finger did, but to keep it also in a relatively straight and somewhat usable posture I also wore its brace to keep it straight.

    After a week or so both fingers were maintaining a relatively straight posture and to allow working them to keep their joints moving and as flexible as possible, I began wearing the braces only at night in sleep. During the days I would soak them both in alternating hot and cold water at least twice a day (washing dishes is great!) and move them as much as possible while avoiding getting them stuck in their trigger positions.

    At the same time, I began re-learning how to play instruments.

    For the left thumb I had to re-learn how to hold the mandolin and banjo necks without back-flexing the thumb-tip. I found that instead of running the thumb along the center of the back of the necks, I could keep the thumb straight and brace it primarily against the upper-side of the neck. This actually worked pretty well, so I set out to implement that posture for all of my mandolin and banjo playing.

    For the right ring finger, on finger picking the banjo for over 50 years I had been playing with that finger tucked under, like Doug Dillard and John Hickman did, exclusively anchoring my pinky on the banjo head (or on a finger-rest). That wouldn't work anymore since flexing that finger enough to do so would always cause it to trigger. So I set out to re-learn that posture to keep the right ring finger straight and anchor it and the pinky on the head (or finger rest), like Earl Scruggs and many other banjo players did/do. Wearing the brace helped in particular to get that finger cooperating as it encouraged a straight finger. Eventually I was able to keep the ring finger straight and anchor it.

    For playing the double bass, that right ring finger was the strong-finger of the three fingers that play notes in my slapping patterns. With a little practice I was able to depend less on that finger for reaching the note string and more on my index and 2nd fingers. I could still use it a little, but it didn't have as much strength since it was learning to stay straight most of the time with anchoring it for banjo playing. Fortunately for me, the left thumb problems didn't change anything for my playing the double bass, since I do not use Simandl left hand posture.

    22 months down the road now, my re-learned playing of these instruments has grown more polished and mature with practice and I've at least re-gained the playing abilities that I had before. In the case of the mandolin, which really had been sitting the background most of the time but which I've been playing pretty constantly since the pandemic with online jamming, I'm happy to say that my skills have dramatically improved and I'm really loving playing it.

    Regarding my hands and in particular my left thumb and right ring finger, I've just about completely stopped wearing the braces now, except when driving for long stretches where these fingers naturally tend to try to match the curvature of the steering wheel and trigger again. The thumb is almost back to it's natural flexibility, except for the tip joint which no longer will flex backwards -- that feature remains stiff enough that I don't try to change it, and the thumb can still -- more gently -- slip into a trigger so I'm a little careful to avoid that. The right ring finger doesn't flex as easily, although with a little exercise I can get it more flexible, but it also can still trigger pretty painfully so I don't push it. Both hands are generally a little stiff in the mornings, but with a little soaking and movement (like washing dishes!), they work pretty well.

    Mostly this has been a matter of re-learning, and unfortunately to some extent giving up movement that causes pain and swelling. Keep in mind that my situation includes congenital RA though, so working this all out may be different for anyone who doesn't have that.

    RA takes a toll. My mom lived to be 94, and by that time she could barely move her fingers enough to hold a pen or a spoon. I may have that situation too, so we'll just have to see how things go. In the mean time I'm playing as much music as I can, with no regrets.

    Good luck with the trigger fingers!
    -- Don

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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    Worth mentioning, in my experience the hands seem to strike a balance with problems like this. While I spent some time studying and learning what alternative movements I could reasonably do for relearning how to play, a lot of the process really seemed to happen automatically, naturally. There are lots of good things that I'm doing now that I wasn't doing before, that I didn't plan on doing, and many if not most of them came unexpectedly.

    Part of that is that being in a mode to relearn has also opened my mind to new options that have improved what I can do. Probably also, part of that is just wanting to move in a positive direction.

    I'm sure teachers and pros might look casually at my relearned postures and not like them for "normal hands", because basically my hands do look physically normal. But for what I've got left at this time in my life, these hands seem to be doing pretty well.

    And yes, I'm reminded daily of (and inspired by) Django Reinhardt.
    Last edited by dhergert; Sep-12-2021 at 11:45am.
    -- Don

    "Music: A minor auditory irritation occasionally characterized as pleasant."
    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."


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  22. #18
    Registered User Lane Pryce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trigger Finger (s)

    Steroid injections and immobilization. Middle finger not so much trouble but that index finger is a really aggravating. May try lighter strings to see if that helps a bit.
    J.Lane Pryce

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