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Trigger Finger, Part 2

January 13, 2014 by Diane


woman with pistol

The official medical term is Focal Dystonia. It’s a condition where the finger is permanently cocked as if pulling the trigger on a pistol. Ergo, trigger finger.

Does it only happen to gunslingers? Apparently not. It happens because the bearer of the hand is engaged in a rapid, repetitive motion with the fingers, causing the tendon to become inflamed. The fingers are flying…on a keyboard, say, if you’re a pianist. In my case, it happened because I was a fast typist. I typed so fast that my fingers were a blur to my brain: it no longer recognized my right index finger. For my brain, the finger didn’t exist.

Doctor Garcia wanted to treat the finger with Botox injections: a band-aid that would need to be reapplied every six months. Botox is what he knew. Botox is what he was trained to give.

I wanted to get to the source of the trouble.

I wanted to lure the brain back on board.

So I decided to play matchmaker, to attract the brain’s attention by showing off the finger in a new light.

I powered up the internet and after pecking around I pulled up the name of a medical specialist in San Francisco who had researched the condition and had experimented with exercises to un-cock the finger. I called her and asked if she would send me a copy of the exercises.

“It’s best if you do them with guidance,” she said. “You can make an appointment…”

I didn’t want to make an appointment. I didn’t want to get lost on those one-way streets in San Francisco and have my brakes fail at the top of a hill and crash into a cable car. (For those of you keeping track, this is thinking distortion number 12: Expecting Disaster.) I just couldn’t do it.

“Can’t you send them? Please? My only other option is Botox.”

A week later I received a manila envelope in the mail.

I immediately sat down to practice. I studied the grainy black-and-white photos and followed the directions diligently. This was calisthenics for the fingers. Push-ups. Stretches.

My brain stirred.

I added the power of visualization to further engage the brain. I visualized reaching out to shake someone’s hand, my fingers extended; of taking a stroke in a swimming pool, fingers extended. Lovely, soft, warm, fingers.

My brain perked up.

I added regular acupuncture treatments, with a specialist named Emerson.

I expected Emerson to be a burly man, but she was a petite Japanese woman who ushered me into an antiseptic room in the inner recesses of the medical clinic.

“I don’t want to lie face-down,” I said.

I had attempted acupuncture once before, for back pain, my face wedged between two hard cheek-rests, unable to see anything but the floor, feel anything but the adrenaline pounding through my veins. I had to beg the acupuncturist to take the needles out of my back until he finally screamed, “There’s no needles in you!”

Emerson invited me to lie face-up on the exam table, on a sheet of thin tissue. She tapped the first needle into the top of my scalp. “For anxiety,” she said. “In China, people walk around with the needle in their head all day.”

Good reason to move to China.

After several months of finger exercises and visualization and weekly acupuncture treatments my brain made a move.

It phoned in.

And my finger, without assistance….straightened.

Later, the medical clinic conducted a study on trigger finger. My doctor asked if I would be interested in participating.


“For fifty dollars.”


I received a call from a cheery medical student. I answered questions for an hour.

How did it start, did it affect your daily activities, did anyone in the family have it, what was going on in your life at the time…

on and on and on, question after question until the last question:

“Do you have anything you want to add that I haven’t asked?”

“Yes,” I said. “Do you want to know how I cured it?”

Silence. Then…

“Of course!”

“Well…” I settled back in my chair. “It didn’t involve Botox…”


  1. Joan merdinger says:

    Great story! I remember when you went through this. Quite amazing actually.

  2. Yong Seng Chye says:

    How did you cure it?

    • Diane says:

      I practiced the finger exercises every day, visualized my finger straightening, and had acupuncture treatments. Not sure if it was one thing, or the combination of all three, that did the trick.

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