Trigger finger is a fairly common issue that results in the triggering or locking of a finger, causing pain and tenderness at the base of the finger. Common methods of treatment are steroid injections and surgery; however, this condition may be treated with a simple splint.
When to Use it?
Generally speaking, non-surgical treatments are usually reserved for patients with milder cases of trigger finger. These mild cases include those who are still not in the phase where they have to correct the affected finger’s position with the help of the other hand. Typically, a physician will recommend wearing a splint for around 6 weeks, and, if needed, extend the treatment to 10 weeks if the symptoms do not go away. These splints can be removed by the patients in order to do tendon gliding exercises a few times a day if necessary.
What Kind of Splint to Use?
Nowadays, there is a wide variety of splints available on the market. It depends on the individual what kind of splint they will use, but what’s important to remember is to use a splint that prevents the finger from bending at the trigger point, but still allows for the free use of a hand.
Typically, a patient will receive a custom-made splint, fashioned to their individual finger size. Most commonly a splint will hold the MCP joint at a 10-15° of flexion, leaving the DIP and PIP joints free. These trigger finger splints are usually made of molded plastic and have broad bands and rounded edges, and they can be worn when showering as they do not soak.
One of the most recommended splint types is a 3-Point Oval-8 splint which can be worn both during the night and the day and it prevents the movements of the tendons. Wearing a splint for some time can help the tendon rest and heal. The best results are achieved by combining a splint treatment with anti-inflammatory injections.
Is it effective?
How effective is splint treatment as an option for trigger finger? Studies conducted in the past several years have shown that using a splint as a treatment for the trigger finger condition helps with pain alleviation and reduces the triggering. Moreover, one of these studies has found that more than ¾ of the patients did not need to undergo a surgery or a steroid injection after using splint treatment. Also, evidence suggests that patients that underwent a splint treatment combined with steroid injections had nearly 100% success rate in complete recuperation compared to those who received only one of these treatments.
Ongoing research has found that there is a substantial symptom decrease with the use of a splint treatment at the MCP (metacarpal-phalangeal) joint, the PIP (proximal interphalangeal) joint, and DIP (distal interphalangeal) joint of the thumb.
Home-made Trigger Finger Splint
Before splitting your finger, make sure that your doctor agrees with this treatment, as self-treating without professional medical advice is far from recommended. If you must splint your finger yourself, make sure you don’t use the home-made splint for a long time and do move on to professional treatment, as improper splitting can result in joint damage, it can obstruct blood flow, and cause skin infections.
There are several types of home-remedy splints for trigger finger listed below.
A technique used when a finger ligament is strained or when a joint becomes dislocated. Buddy splints join two fingers by tapping them one to another at two points: above and below the affected joint. Be wary of them because they are not advised for fractured fingers and unstable joints.
- As materials go, you will need scissors, two tongue depressors or simple popsicle sticks, and medical tape which is used to secure the splints to the fingers.
- You need to determine which two fingers to split. If possible, avoid splitting your index finger as it is the most useful one which you do not want to be restrained. Choose well and try to keep as much natural mobility of your hand as possible.
- Place the wooden splint under the affected finger, and another one on the top. You do not need to split the healthy finger, only the trigger one.
- Using two pieces of medical tape, wrap the first piece around the first and the second knuckle of the affected finger, and join it around the buddy finger. Repeat the process for the second and third knuckle.
- Make sure to check the circulation of both fingers by pinching the nails for a couple of seconds. IF they return to their original pinkish color it means that all is well.
Static splints are used to protect and support the affected fingers through the use of a form-fitting piece of plastic, foam, or metal. They are supposed to keep the joint in place, and they can be bought over the counter at supermarkets and pharmacies.
- Straighten the affected finger and place the splint on it. Slowly and steadily slide the static splint along the bottom part of the finger and fit it into place, making sure that the splint is of the right size and that the finger is completely straight. It is very important to keep the finger absolutely straight as sores may develop if the finger is even slightly bent.
- Cut the tape into two pieces and wrap the first piece around the first and the second knuckle of the affected finger and repeat for the second and third knuckle.
- Make sure to check the circulation of the trigger finger by pinching the nail for a few seconds.
- Replace the tape and the splint when they get dirty
Dynamic splints are somewhat complicated as they are spring-loaded and must always be custom made. For the use of this splint, you will probably have to visit your doctor who will help you put it in place.
Stack splints are used when the affected joints are closer to the tip of the finger. These joints are called DIP (distal interphalangeal) joints. These splints come in various sizes and they are supposed to prevent the DIP joint from bending. They are commonly made of plastic with ventilation holes and can be purchased at pharmacies and grocery stores.
- Straighten the trigger finger with the help of the other hand and slowly slide the splint onto it. Check that the splint fits the finger and that the finger is completely straight.
- If necessary, use tape to secure the splint. Some of the stack splints come with adjustable straps, so tape may not be necessary.
- Always check the circulation of the affected finger
- If the splint becomes loose or dirty, replace it with a new one