Can Acupuncture Really Cure Trigger Thumb

Trigger thumb, also known as trigger finger, is a painful condition that can develop progressively. A finger may first seem stiff, or develop a bump, then may catch in a bent position and pop out straight again. The finger may also become locked in the bent position. Acupuncture can cure trigger thumb in some cases, according to nationally certified acupuncturist Mark Shprintz.

Causes and Treatments

According to the Mayo Clinic, trigger finger occurs when the sheath surrounding the tendon narrows. If the area becomes inflamed from repetitive use or from already existing inflammatory conditions in your body, the tendon can no longer glide easily and sometimes scars, thickens or forms nodules. Treatments in traditional settings include massage, rest, splinting, steroids or surgery. Acupuncturist Mark Shprintz has successfully treated trigger thumb with techniques that facilitate microcirculation.

Acupuncture Techniques and Approach

Acupuncture approaches to trigger thumb vary based on how far the condition has progressed. According to Shprintz, stimulating the superficial membrane of cyst can significantly reduce it, especially if the sheath is still soft and pliable. If the direct area is too tender or uncomfortable for needles, the acupuncturist can also treat the cyst with non-needle techniques such as laser therapy combined with traditional acupuncture points to stimulate the circulation of congested energy along the meridian affecting the finger. Shprintz also uses herbal wraps to treat trigger finger — the wraps are messy but absolutely painless and effective, as the compress softens the offending nodule.


Some cases of trigger finger are simply from repetitive overuse and don’t reoccur. But in other cases, a person with trigger thumb or finger may be more susceptible than others to developing cysts. In these situations, an acupuncturist can approach the problem with recurring maintenance after working to alleviate the pain of the cyst that initially leads the patient to seek help. The acupuncturist can treat around the scar, according to Shprintz, to make the area more pliable and to address the cyst at an incipient level.

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Addressing Ongoing Issues

One of Shprintz’s patients with a ganglion cyst had surgery to remove it, only to find that it later resurfaced. By working with acupuncture, she addressed the underlying imbalances in her body that led to the cyst returning. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this tendency some people have to form cysts often falls within a pattern known as “phlegm disorder” or “phlegm nodulation.”

Treating Phlegm Disorder

Acupuncture is a way of moving energy through the body to restore balance. Shprintz describes this energy system as a river that should flow. “If a river isn’t moving,” he explains, “it will silt up.” This stagnation is what can occur with phlegm in the body, and TCM has a way of getting this energy moving by needle placement, based on where the “silt” is accumulating in the body. Many acupuncturists also combine this type of treatment with phlegm-resolving herbs, mixing a blend based on where it needs to go in the body.