What is it?
Trigger finger is when your fingers or thumb get stuck in a bent position – as if squeezing a “trigger.” Trigger finger occurs in just one or possibly more than one finger. Usually, your ring finger is the trouble finger. The condition is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis for all of you physical therapy fans out there.
Who does it happen to?
We see trigger finger most commonly in:
- People who have jobs, hobbies, or tasks that require strenuous repetitive motions; frequent, strong grasping or gripping, or forceful use of the fingers and/or thumb.
- Industrial workers
- People who have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or diabetes
- People between the ages of 40 and 60.
Symptoms and Causes
Tendons are bands of tissue that attach your muscles to your bones. In your hand, tendons and muscles must work together to flex and straighten your fingers and thumb. Usually, tendons slide easily through a tunnel of tissue called a sheath. The sheath keeps the tendons in place next to the bones of the finger(s) or thumb. With trigger finger or trigger thumb, your tendons become irritated and swollen and can no longer easily slide through their sheaths. A bump may also form on the tendon, which makes it even more difficult for the tendon to easily glide through its sheath.
Signs and symptoms of trigger finger or trigger thumb include:
- Snapping or popping sensation when moving the finger(s) or thumb.
- Soreness at the base of the finger or thumb in the palm, especially while gripping or grasping.
- Pain and stiffness when bending the finger or thumb.
- Swelling or tender lump in the palm of the hand.
- Locking of the finger or thumb in the bent position (in severe cases). Your finger or thumb has to be gently straightened using your other hand.
- Inability to fully flex the finger.
The stiffness and bent position of your finger or thumb are worse in the morning. The stiffness typically lessens as you use your fingers.
Management and Treatment
For mild cases, the first step is to rest the finger or thumb and limit or avoid the activities that are causing symptoms. Sometimes a splint may be used on the affected finger to keep the joint from moving. If symptoms continue, anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, may be prescribed or steroid injections may be considered.
If the condition does not respond to non-surgical treatments or continues to recur, then we will recommend surgery.
Written by Clint Bunker PT