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Saturday, December 20, 2008

The humble pinkie has earned my respect: Finger surgery & finger therapy

Dana Scarton's story:
Last April, I tripped while jogging and my 132-pound frame crashed onto the bone at the base of my right pinkie, a bone the width of a pencil. It snapped in the metacarpophalangeal, or MCP, joint, where the finger links with the hand.

Five months later, my finger would not bend unassisted. I could not make a fist, swing a tennis racket with control, or securely grasp a dumbbell or the handle of a vacuum cleaner. Because the injury occurred in my dominant hand, writing was cumbersome.

Repairs to a broken small finger can involve pins, srews, and plates. Eight days after my fall, two pins were inserted through the MCP joint during outpatient surgery, then a cast was applied from fingertips to elbow.

Twelve days later, the cast was removed and physical rehabilitation began. I had never heard of finger therapy, but it exists, and it's painful.

Treatments include heat, ultrasound, neuromuscular stimulation, splinting, and manual exercise.

I got therapy quickly but was assigned a therapist who was too timid to manipulate my finger. By the time I located a competent replacement, my finger was rigid, and scarring appeared to be well underway. My finger was stuck.

In October, I underwent flexor tenolysis, in which the surgeon meticulously freed the tendons. The day after the surgery, I started physical therapy. Earlier this month, I completed the treatment, and my finger now bends with ease and my hand strength has returned.

And the humble pinkie has earned my respect.

Dana's advice: It's of paramount importance to begin physical therapy promptly after surgery, if needed, to prevent scar tissue from proliferating and stiffening the joint.

Read a story about the value of good physical therapy.

Thanks to Dana Scarton for the source article in the Dec. 16 issue of the New York Times.

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