Trigger Finger

What Is Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger is a disorder that causes a finger or the thumb to get stuck in a bent position and straighten suddenly, much like a trigger that is pulled and then released. Depending on the severity of the trigger finger, the finger may get stuck in the bent position and remain this way.

What Causes Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger occurs when the protective sheath that surrounds the tendon of the affected finger narrows. Sheaths are lined with a lubricating fluid excreted from the tendon lining, known as tenosynovium. This fluid helps the tendon to move smoothly when bending and straightening the finger. If this fluid tissue becomes inflamed, the sheath can narrow and cause difficulty with tendon movement. This can cause the finger to become stuck in the bent position before straightening. Trigger finger can be caused by overuse, repetitive strain or from inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. Women are more prone to this condition and those who must grip items for extended periods are more at risk. Health problems such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis and amyloidosis can also contribute to the development of trigger finger.

What Are The Symptoms of Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger may start out mild and progress to a more severe state. The finger may have stiffness, especially in the mornings and may make a clicking or popping noise during movement. The finger may also become tender and a bump may form at the base of the finger. The most significant symptom a trigger finger specialist looks for is the finger becoming locked in a bent position and suddenly popping straight or staying fixed in the bent position. This condition is more apt to affect the thumb, middle or ring finger of the dominant hand. The triggering symptom is usually experienced more in the mornings while straightening the finger or grasping an object.

Non-surgical Treatment Options For Trigger Finger

Depending on the severity of the condition, treatments can vary. When symptoms are mild, the trigger finger doctor may recommend resting the finger for a few weeks as well as avoiding any repetitive movements. A splint may also be used to keep the finger extended and warm water soaks may be recommended. If trigger finger becomes severe, the trigger finger doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to help relieve the inflammation and pain. Cortisone injections may also be used to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Surgical Treatment Options

If trigger finger becomes so severe that the finger becomes stuck and does not respond to noninvasive treatments, the trigger finger specialist may advise surgery. The trigger finger surgeon will make a small incision in the palm and release the tendon. The incision site is then wrapped in a sterile bandage, which is removed after a few days. The surgery is done using a local anesthetic with sedation and is normally done at an outpatient facility.

Recovery Time After Trigger Finger Surgery

Once the trigger finger surgeon removes the bandage, the patient is encouraged to begin full use of the finger. This helps to prevent scar tissue from developing. Patients can expect to experience a full recovery following surgery.