What is Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger is the inflammation of the tendon or tendon sheath on the palm side of the finger which catches when the finger moves from a bent position to straight position. This motion of straightening the finger can create a popping sound along with pain when the finger catches. Trigger finger can affect all fingers including the thumb and more than one finger can be affected.
Pictures to represent the motion from bent to straight and the X signifies the inflammation location specific for the ring finger.
Trigger Finger Symptoms
Symptoms for trigger finger include:
- Finger stiffness
- Popping or clicking noise/sensation with movement
- A physical bump felt or visibly noticeable on the palm side of the finger (at the base of the affected finger)
- Finger catching or locking while moving from bent to straight
Causes of Trigger Finger
Trigger finger is caused by recurring irritation to the tendon/tendon sheath creating scarring, inflammation and nodules (bumps) on the tendon itself which blocks the natural motion of the finger. Typically, trigger finger is caused heavy gripping, prolonged fist motions, and repetitive motions with the finger and hand. Repetitive vibrations from hand held machinery are also associated with causing the inflammation overtime. Medical history such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or previous surgery complications such as carpal tunnel syndrome surgery can be risk factors. Additionally, women are statistically more likely to develop trigger finger.
Trigger Finger Treatment without Surgery
RICE- Rest, ice, compress, elevate should be implemented for conservative treatment along with Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil, Motrin IB or Aleve. Your hand therapist may also create a finger splint (or can be ordered online) to maintain the finger in a straight position to decrease the inflammation on the tendon/tendon sheath by restricting the bending motion of the finger. Gentle exercises and stretches may also be provided to assist with finger stiffness while the affected finger heals which can take about 6 weeks.
What does Trigger Finger surgery look like?
Steroid injections near the affected finger may be appropriate to reduce inflammation as this is one of the most common treatment options to try first. However, multiple injections may be needed and effects can last about a year.
Surgery for trigger finger is typically considered a minor procedure. The surgeon makes a small incision based on the location of the nodule, or inflammation, at the base of the affected finger to release the constricted portion of the tendon or tendon sheath.
Avoid repetitive motions and do not pull your finger into the straight position from bent if the finger is caught as this will continue to inflame the affected finger and cause more pain. Avoid activities like heavy gripping, prolonged fist, and repetitive motions with the finger and hand and adhere to wearing your finger splint as suggested by your hand therapist.
A little bit about Amy Eckert, our visiting OT student…