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Why Do My Fingers Keep Locking
Up? -- Causes and Top 7 Remedies
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March 21, 2016
By H. Sims, Contributing Columnist
Stiff, or ‘locked’, fingers is a nasty little affliction that can
affect a large number of us in our lifetimes. Locked fingers
are essentially the restriction of movement in a particular
finger or thumb, which can greatly affect quality of life. It’s a
painful condition where the fingers or thumb catch when
bent, or ‘lock’.
A common known cause of locked fingers is the aptly named
Trigger Finger, and there are a variety of effective natural
treatments involving various physiotherapies. However, many
other diseases and conditions can produce a similar problem
of fingers that lock up, such as diabetes, arthritis and cramps.
However, identifying the problem can help you tackle this
issue, and here we have provided the most common causes
of locked fingers, and the top 7 natural remedies that go with
It is more common to suffer from a locked finger in your
dominant hand, however, research has shown that every
case and every patient is different and unique. Most
commonly, people in their 50s and 60s will experience the
condition, and women are six times more likely than men to
Roughly 2-3% of us will be at risk of locked fingers,
however, this increases in up to 10% of diabetics. Of those
who experience locked fingers, most are likely to have it in
their ring fingers, followed by the thumb, and many will
experience this in multiple fingers.
The condition is the most common reason for referral to a
hand specialist or for outpatient hand surgery.
But, if you are determined not to have surgery, we have
rounded up the Top 7 natural remedies for locking fingers:
1. Unlock Your Fingers with the Graston and ART
Trigger Finger is a specific type of locking fingers and is
essentially a painful snapping or restriction of movement, and
most affects being able to extend or flex the digit. The cause
of this pain is due to a fault in the pulley system and bio-
mechanical structures we have in our hands.
Therefore, it has been suggested that the most effective form
of treatment for Trigger Finger are specialised forms of
physiotherapy, known as the Active Release Technique (ART)
and Graston Technqiue.
ART is a deep tissue therapy and Graston a technique which
uses specially-designed instruments to stimulate soft tissue
and treat inflammation. A study was held in Toronto in 2006,
at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, led by Dr
Scott Howitt, to test the treatment of a patient with a case of
Trigger Thumb with these two techniques.
A rehabilitation protocol was utilised to build thumb strength
and extension, while ice was used to control the pain and any
inflammation. The results were based on subjective pain
ratings and the range of motion observed. The team
concluded that the patient was relieved of his pain and
disability after this treatment which incorporated the ART and
2. Treat Diabetes to Relieve Locked Fingers
A significant proportion of people who suffer from both Type
1 and 2 diabetes will experience stiff hands and locking
The specific name for this condition is "Diabetic
Cheiroarthropathy". Often traditional, steroid treatment is
less effective on diabetics than it is on others who experience
locking fingers, hence the need for an alternative treatment.
According to a study at Brown University School of Medicine
in 1995 led by Dr. Griggs, of the 54 diabetic patients with
trigger digits assessed, 59% of patients had multiple trigger
involvement and 56% did not respond to steroid injections.
This is compared to only 28% of the former and 28% of the
latter of non-diabetic patients.
Dr. Cherqaoui at the Howard University Hospital in
Washington, suggests that simply improved glycemic control
will alleviate the condition somewhat, after a study on a
diabetic sufferer in 2013.
Studies have shown that eating date fruits could have anti-
diabetic effects - 2010 a team led by Dr. Mard at the Ahvaz
Jundishapour University of Medical Sciences in Iran tested
this on some diabetic rats. They were fasted overnight and
then given a date-leaf extract before blood was collected to
analyse the levels of blood glucose and plasma insulin.
The extract significantly reduced blood glucose and the
plasma insulin levels increased, demonstrating glycemic
control, which could help diabetes and diabetic
3. Treat Arthritis to Help Your Locked Fingers
Despite the stereotype that arthritis only affects your granny,
it is actually a very widespread condition that can affect
people of all ages.
According to a 2015 Canadian studyled by Dr. Siobhan O’
Donnell of the Public Health Agency of Canada, arthritis is a
blanket term that encompasses over 100 rheumatic diseases
and conditions of the joints, the tissues that surround the
joints and other connective tissue, including stiff, painful and
This study of a 2009 study of 4565 adults of 20-75+ years of
age, found that there was a wide-ranging impact on people
of all ages, and suggested that public health authorities
should stress the prevalence on younger aged people.
The protein bromelain found in pineapples has been said to
help relieve arthritis, owing to its anti-inflammatory
A study in Pakistan in 2004, at the King Edward Medical
College in Lahore, tested the effects of bromelain against a
routine medicine on a group of 103 patients suffering from
painful arthritis over a course of 6 weeks. The results
concluded that bromelain was just as effective a treatment as
the presciption drug.
4. Change Your Knives and Forks to Help Arthritis in the
Locked fingers from arthritis in the hands affects the little
tasks of everyday living which most of us take for granted.
Switching up a few things in your daily routine can not only
provide relief, but help lessen the condition overall.
A study from 2016 at the University of Tennessee-
Chattanooga led by Dr. McDonald tested the efficacy of
adapted silverware in relieving pain that occurs when there is
restricted motion of the hand or fingers.
Locking fingers can affect the day-to-day life of sufferers and
simple tasks such as eating can cause discomfort and even
worsen the condition because of the repetitive action. This
study assessed the bio-mechanical effects of using modified
handles and the subsequent range of motion.
The team found that less of a range of motion is required to
grip utensils with larger diameter handles, so switching daily
utensils in favour of larger handles and objects can reduce
challenges for people suffering from locked fingers.
5. Put Your Pen Down and Relieve Your Writer’s Cramp!
Writer’s Cramp (WC) is a common muscular disorder, that as
the name might suggest, people who write a lot may suffer
from, due to the repetitive muscle action. It can cause pain
and stiffness in the fingers, and excessive flexion most
commonly in the thumb and index finger.
A 2015 study led by Dr Jhunjhunwala at the National
Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore,
India, reported that writer's cramp presents earlier in life in
women than men, and as well as pain in the fingers and
hand, can shoot up to cause pain in the forearm. Before you
argue that you no longer write anything by hand, the paper
points out that many of the WC sufferers also had difficulty in
typing – something which many of us spend our lives doing!
Musicians, too, can suffer from finger locking, pain and
cramps because of similar repetitive actions, and both
conditions are known as forms of focal hand dystonia. Where
possible, reduce the frequency of these actions, however in
cases where this is not possible, physiotherapy is good
course of action. A study in 2000 at the University of
California led by Dr. Byl and Dr. McKenzie showed that after a
course of physiotherapy and with the supplement of home
physical therapeutic exercises, in a group of 12 patients, 11
went back to work (where previously they had been unable
to work because of writer’s or musician’s cramp).
6. Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to Relieve Your Fingers
Carpal Tunnel (CTS) is caused by a problem with one of the
main nerves in the wrist, and can cause numbness, tingling,
pain and abnormal flexion in the fingers (locking). The carpal
tunnel is this area in your wrist which holds a number of
different important nerves - it is not a muscular condition as
some may believe, but a neurological one.
Many people find comfort in wearing a splint to relieve carpal
tunnel syndrome, which lessens the pressure on the nerve
and keeps the wrist in a neutral position. However, often
further treatment is needed to get to the root of the problem.
A 2012 study led by Dr. Khosrawi at the Isfhahan School of
Medicine in Iran, tested the effects of acupuncture on
patients suffering with carpal tunnel syndrome. 64 patients
were monitored in a controlled study and divided into groups
to be treated with wearing splints at night, taking vitamin B1
or B2 or acupuncture for four weeks. The acupuncture group
was given eight sessions over four weeks.
After the four weeks, the patients treated with acupuncture
showed significant improvement and the team suggested that
acupuncture could be implemented in the care of carpal
7. Treat Muscular Dystrophy to Keep Your Fingers Strong
Muscular Dystrophy (MD) causes a progressive weakening of
the muscles in varying parts of the body, and can affect
flexion of the thumb and fingers. It is a genetic disease and
can develop at any age.
It has been suggested that vitamin supplements can help to
alleviate the symptoms and onset of MD. A 2014 study led by
Dr. Emilie at the Physiologie et medecine expérimentale du
coeur et des muscles of France tested the effects vitamin E
and C on patients with MD in a placebo-controlled study. As
the study found, owing to the growing evidence that
muscular dystrophy can be caused by oxidative stress, the
vitamin supplements were shown to be effective in relieving
MD because of their ability to enhance antioxidant defences.
Painful and locking fingers can be a barrier to everyday life,
when they needn’t be. The cause can usually be explained –
make sure you get checked out by your doctor if symptoms
persist. In the meantime, try one of these natural remedies,
to get you on your way to flexible fingers!
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