Opposable thumbs are what separate us from most animals. They give us the ability to manipulate items in ways the few other animals are physically capable of doing. Trigger thumb injuries can deny us the ability to use the thumb and leave your hand virtually useless.
Previously, surgery or corticosteroid injections were the only possible help for these irritating and potentially debilitating injuries. However, the Graston Technique, coupled with Active Release Technique, has changed that. Case reports and small studies have indicated that these non-invasive therapies are capable of restoring normal use to the injured thumb at least as well, if not better, than the traditional treatments of surgery or injections.
What is the Graston Technique?
The Graston Technique is a relatively new form of physical rehabilitation therapy that uses specially made stainless-steel tools to manipulate the soft tissue surrounding an injured area. The tools allow clinicians to pinpoint the location of scar tissue and adhesions on muscle fibers, ligaments and tendons.
Sports rehab therapists, massage therapists, or just about any alternative medicine therapist – use the tools in multi-directional strokes to begin removing the offending tissues and repairing the injured area. Graston Technique has proven to be effective at restoring function, improving range of motion and decreasing the amount of pain patients feel for a large number of soft-tissue injuries.
What is Trigger Thumb?
Trigger thumb is a recognized injury that causes the thumb to snap or lock and has a reported prevalence of up to 20%. When the thumb is in the bent position, trigger thumb can cause the thumb to remain stuck in that position until the connective tissue allows the thumb to “snap” back into position. In severe cases, the disorder can cause the thumb to remain locked in the bent position.
Trigger thumb is typically caused by a thickening of the soft tissue responsible for controlling the movement of the thumb. It is also possible that surrounding joints or connective tissues can cause or mimic the symptoms of trigger thumb.
Patients with trigger thumb injuries report that the injury causes the affected joint to elicit a painful sensation.
How can Seattle Graston Technique Help Recovery
In a recent case study, therapists effectively used a combination of the Graston Technique and Active Release Technique to restore full function of a patient’s thumb. The combination therapy also removed the pain associated with the injury.
The patient presented with moderate pain in his right thumb and a restricted range of motion. After performing a clinical diagnosis and ultrasound to verify the diagnosis, clinicians were able to determine that a trigger thumb disorder was present.
Upon further discussion, the clinicians learned that the patient had sought the advice of a sports physician nearly three months before beginning this treatment. The physician recommended a corticosteroid injection to help relieve symptoms; however, it is unclear if the patient received the injection at that time.
The treatment course decided upon consisted of a combination of Graston Technique and Active Release Technique therapies. Following treatment, the patient was instructed to use ice to help reduce inflammation and to self-mobilize the injury whenever possible. The treatment lasted eight sessions over a period of four weeks.
Following the first treatment the patient demonstrated a full range of motion when the thumb was extended and the “clicking” associated with the injury was no longer present, but the patient still experienced pain towards the end of the range of motion. By the time the patient reached the third session full range of motion without pain had been restored, however pain was still present when the injured area was palpitated. The impressive recovery continued through the eighth week of treatment when the patient had regained full and pain-free function of the thumb. The only remaining evidence of the injury was a slight weakness in the thumb.
The case study followed up at both 2 and 14 months by telephone. At each follow-up interval, the patient reported he still had full range of motion, no pain was present and full strength of the thumb had returned.
Trigger Thumb is No Match for Seattle Graston Technique
If you currently suffer from trigger thumb disorder, there are alternatives to surgery and painful needle injections. Corticosteroid injections are initially effective, but typically wear off after a few months. However, as the case study above shows, a combination of conservative treatments like Graston Technique and Active Release Technique is capable of restoring thumb function for long-term durations. Kinetic Sports Rehab in Seattle offers both Graston Technique and Active Release Technique therapies, along with many others. Contact us today (206) 547-0707 to learn how we can help you on your road to recovery.
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