I got some good news and some bad news this week, plus I learned a new phrase. As I noted earlier, I’ve been having more trouble with my hands lately. Each month they become more difficult to open, and now a new pain has shown up. So I called up my joint doctor, got some X-rays, and set up an appointment. After a bit of hemming and hawing, what she finally said was that it’s the normal progression of the disease. In other words: get used to it ’cause it ain’t gonna get no better.
Like I didn’t know that. That’s exactly what my old doctor said 10 years ago. But she did go on to explain (in great detail) exactly what’s causing the problem. It’s called “trigger finger”, and it’s caused by a swelling of one (or more) of my flexor tendons. Apparently when I bend or straighten each of my fingers, a flexor tendon slides through a snug tunnel called the tendon sheath. (The sheath is there to keep the tendon in place next to the bones.) Because of the swelling, the tendon becomes momentarily stuck at the mouth of the tendon sheath tunnel when I try to curl or uncurl my fingers. There’s an actual pop as the tendon slips through the tight area and the finger finishes the motion. Right now I have two fingers on each hand that have this problem.
The good news is: the doctor didn’t think that it’s very likely to spread. And it’s definitely not a precursor for other problems, like “angulation”, for example. The bad news is: exercise won’t fix it. In fact, exercise agravates the problem. I’d been thinking lately of taking some piano lessons (I’m self-taught on the ivories) as a way to exercise my fingers. But now I know that’s out of the question. Oh well.
It looks like there’s no way I could have avoided having this problem. Apparently trigger finger shows up in both rheumatoid and diabetic patients. So I get two out of two for “likely to happen”. And nothing short of surgery (to enlarge the sheath tunnel) is going to fix it, although she did recommend a really painful steroid shot into the tendon as a temporary fix (reduces the swelling). I’ll think about it. Right now it’s mostly just inconvenient. If and/or when it becomes more painful, then I’ll consider the shot. Because this problem occurs in part because I tend to clench my fists while sleeping, I now get to wear a brace on my hands when I sleep to keep the problem at a minimum.
Getting old is sooooo much fun. Pretty soon you won’t be able to see me at all. I’ll just be a huge mass of bandages and braces. I wonder if Dawg will recognize me when I look like the warped offspring of Frankenstein’s Monster and the Mummy? Or maybe he’ll just pretend he doesn’t.