You wake up one morning and as you bend your finger, you notice it will not straighten easily. It feels stuck in the bent position. Finally, you are able to straighten it but it snaps or pops as you do. If you experience this, you may have “trigger finger.”
What is Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger, or stenosing tenosynovitis (stuh-NO-sing ten-o-sin-o-VIE-tis), is a condition in which one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position. Though it is called trigger finger, you don’t have to shoot guns frequently to experience the condition. In fact, the origin of the name is derived from the fact that your finger pops like a trigger, not because it is prominent among shooters. Any highly repetitive movement can lead to this condition. It also doesn’t have to be your pointer finger; any finger can be affected and I often see cases of the thumb, middle and ring finger. More than one finger may be affected at a time, and both hands might be involved. Pain and popping is usually more pronounced in the morning.
Who is Prone to Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger is more common in women than men and tends to happen most often in people who are 40 to 60 years old. Farmers, industrial workers, computer users and musicians often get trigger finger since they repeat finger and thumb movements.
What Causes Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger results when tendons inside your finger become inflamed. Tendons are bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones; they assist your muscles in moving and bending your finger. These tendons typically glide easily through the surrounding tissue (sheath) with the help of the synovium, a tissue that lubricates the tendon. As the tendon becomes inflamed, it begins to swell, and has difficulty moving fluidly through the surrounding sheath. The tendon struggles to move naturally and can begin to snap or pop.
Treatment for Trigger Finger
Non-Invasive Treatment for Trigger Finger
Often, patients are able to use a noninvasive treatment. These may include:
• Rest. For at least three to four weeks, avoid activities that require repetitive gripping, repeated grasping or the prolonged use of vibrating hand-held machinery.
• Ice or heat. Some people experience improvement by icing the palm several times a day. Others see more benefit with warm-water soaks, particularly first thing in the morning.
• A splint. I may have you wear a splint at night to keep the affected finger in an extended position for up to six weeks. The splint helps rest the tendon. Splinting also helps prevent you from curling your fingers into a fist while sleeping, which can make it painful to move your fingers in the morning.
• Stretching exercises. I will also suggest gentle exercises to help maintain mobility in your finger.
Surgical and Other Procedures for Trigger Finger
If your symptoms are severe or if conservative treatments haven’t helped, there are further treatments we can use:
• Steroid injection. Injecting a steroid medication near or into the tendon sheath reduces inflammation and allows the tendon to glide freely again. Studies have shown this treatment effective in up to 90 percent of patients. (In people with diabetes, it is effective about half the time. Sometimes a second injection is needed.
• Surgery. Working through a small incision near the base of your affected finger, I can cut open the constricted section of tendon sheath. This frees the tendon to move without restraint. This procedure is usually done in an operating room.
Avoiding overuse is key to preventing trigger finger. If you begin to experience stiffness and swelling in your fingers, make sure to rest them from that activity. During the day, take a break from repetitive movements and consider alternating activities. Over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen can be a safe way to reduce inflammation before it grows worse.
For any hand pain you experience, give our office a call so we can diagnose trigger finger or other conditions early, allowing for the least invasive treatment possible.