What is trigger finger?
Trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis) is a common source of hand pain and disability. This condition gets its name from the manner in which it first locks your finger into a bent position and then causes it to snap or pop when straightened, like a trigger being pulled and released.
What Is Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger occurs when the tendon in your finger becomes inflamed. Tendons are connective tissues, linking muscles and bones. Tendons support your muscles and help you articulate (move, arch, shape, etc.) your fingers and thumbs. Protective tissue called a sheath surrounds each tendon.
When the tendon becomes inflamed and swollen, it can irritate the sheath, scarring and thickening it. This, in turn, limits the tendon’s range of motion. When that happens, every time you bend your finger, you pull your inflamed tendon through a narrowed sheath, making it snap or pop.
Any of your fingers can be affected by trigger finger, including your thumb. Multiple fingers can be affected simultaneously. In severe cases, the finger becomes locked in a bent position.
What Are The Symptoms Of Trigger Finger?
You may have trigger finger if you routinely experience any of the following symptoms.
- Finger stiffness, especially in the morning.
- A popping or clicking feeling when you move your finger. Typically, this popping sensation worsens after periods of rests and improves the more you move your finger(s).
- Tenderness (sometimes in the form of a bump) in your palm at the base of your finger.
- Fingers that, when bent, become locked in that position.
What Causes Trigger Finger?
A number of different conditions can cause trigger finger, including rheumatoid arthritis, gout and diabetes. However, you can also develop trigger finger from participating in activities that strain your hand and involve repetitive actions, forceful use of your thumb or prolonged gripping.
Since they regularly engage in repetitive finger and thumb movements, agricultural workers, industrial workers and musicians are at greater risk of developing trigger finger. Smokers can also develop trigger thumb from repeated lighter use. Trigger finger afflicts more women than men, especially those between the ages of 40 and 60.
Finally, some individuals develop trigger finger as a complication following surgery to treat carpal tunnel syndrome.
How To Treat Trigger Finger
In many cases, you can treat trigger finger effectively using home remedies. Start by resting your affected digit. You can do this by using a hand splint (available from your primary care provider) to limit the movement of your finger and keep it extended. Massaging the painful joint or finger can help the circulation in your hand and ease inflammation. Regular massage is best — even just a few minutes every day.
If these home remedies do not help your symptoms or they persist, ask your doctor about taking medications that fight pain and inflammation (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.). For especially persistent symptoms, your doctor may recommend a steroid injection. Most individuals with trigger finger find this treatment helpful, with recovery complete within a few weeks.
However, if none of these treatments prove effective, it might be time to consider surgery. Surgical options for trigger finger include a minimally invasive outpatient procedure called percutaneous release. This procedure is performed entirely via a small incision at the base of your affected digit. The surgeon then punctures (with a needle) or cuts the constricted section of the tendon sheath to release the tension.
Following surgery, your doctor may also recommend that you perform the following finger exercises to strengthen your tendons and get them back into good working condition.
- Place your hand, palm down, on a flat surface. Slowly and deliberately lift each finger, one by one, and hold it in place for a second or two, focusing on exerting even strength.
- Place a rubber band around your fingers and thumb, then open and close your hand against the resistance.
- Touch your affected finger to your thumb, creating a circle. Hold for five seconds, and repeat 10 times.
- Hold a tennis ball or stress ball in the palm of your hand. Squeeze it for five seconds, then release. Repeat this five to 10 times a day.
- Spread your fingers wide, then draw them into a fist and repeat.
- Extend your fingers, holding them together. Bend them until they touch the top of your palm, then bend them back up. Next, bend your fingers until they touch the middle of your palm, then back up. Finally, bend your fingers until they touch the bottom of your palm, then back up.
- Hold out your injured finger alongside the finger next to it. Use your other hand to split the fingers into a “V” shape and apply pressure.
Surgical recovery times will vary based on the severity of your case and your post-surgical treatment plan. If your case is serious enough to require open surgery, you may need to splint your finger, stretching your recovery time to as long as six weeks. However, most individuals recover from their trigger finger surgery after only a few weeks of rest.
Are you able to straighten your finger without it locking? If not, schedule an evaluation with Onward Orthopedics today by submitting the online form or by calling one of our friendly Patient Care Managers at 210.880.3823.