Itchy Digit

By Vic Fleming

“You have trigger finger.” The words were uttered by my primary care physician. Matter-of-factly, I might add, to use a twice-hyphenated adverb. I was reminded of a crossword clue, something like “A gunslinger’s may be itchy.” Henceforth I’ll be reminded of “stenosing tenosynovitis” – a disorder marked by locking and/or snapping of a finger’s flexor tendon. And by pain!

I injured myself last April in a contact sport – golf. On a particular shot, my contact was with the ground, not the ball. I felt immediate pain in my wrist. So much so that I left the course in mid-round.

I treated the injury, icing it repeatedly and having manipulative therapy for weeks. I learned that things beneath the skin in the wrist and hand control tendons out to the finger tips.

Things got better, gradually. Playing through a certain amount of pain, I returned to the links and endured the season. And then ... I jammed my left ring finger. I don’t recall exactly how I did it. I think I was reaching for something in a cubbyhole. And either I misaimed or took my eyes off my hand for a split second.

From that point forward, I was in pain daily. And nightly. If I didn’t tape my middle and ring ringers together, limiting the angle at which the latter could bend, pain caused simply by closing my hand would wake me through the night.

My condition was diagnosed in January. That was followed by a couple of stabs at injection therapies – pun intended. My PCP advised me that non-surgical remedies for trigger finger were seldom successful, but you know what? I was determined to give them a go. As it turned out, the knife was in my future.

I couldn’t have asked for a better surgeon. On my office visit, she asked all the right questions. And I liked her answers to my questions: 15-minute office procedure; affected area to be numbed up; co-pay this; meet-your-deductible that; and the procedure’s cost was very do-able.

I did have to endure three more weeks of pain before the surgery. When the day came, I showed up at the clinic at 9:15 and was walking into the pharmacy at 10:30 to get antibiotics to stave off infection.

I’m writing this five days out from the procedure. Per a sheet of instructions, I’ve removed the dressing and replaced it with a Band-Aid. The incision was made along one of the lines in my hand. All I can see are the tips of a couple of sutures.

Following the directions on “scar management,” I’ll minimize scar tissue beneath the skin with massage and a special bandage to sleep in. The scar from the cut is so camouflaged that it’s going to be undetectable.

I’ll never forget the surgeon’s words during the procedure: “Ooh! You have a lot of inflammation. That means you’re going to get a lot of relief!”

I already have, Doc.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at