What Is Trigger Finger?

What is Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger (aka stenosing tenosynovitis) is a painful condition that causes your finger(s) or thumb to catch or lock when you bend them. The flexor tendons of the fingers are long and cord-like, attaching the muscles of the forearm to the bones of the fingers. Each tendon passes through a tunnel, known as the tendon sheath, in the palm and fingers that allows it to glide easily as the finger bends and straightens.  Along the tendon sheath there are also pulleys that hold the tendons close to the bones.

In trigger finger, the pulley becomes inflamed or thickened, making it harder for the flexor tendon to glide through it as the finger bends. If this continues over time, the tendon may develop a small nodule (bump) on its surface which causes a sensation of catching or popping as it passes through the pulley. In severe cases, the finger can lock and get stuck in a bent position.

Signs and symptoms:

Symptoms will usually start out mild and may become more severe over time

  • pain or discomfort, often worse in the morning
  • bump at the base of the finger or thumb
  • clicking or snapping when bending or straightening finger – usually worse after immobility and improves as you move it
  • stiffness in the finger, worst in the morning or after immobility
  • locking of the finger

Cause:

Trigger finger often comes after repeated movement or forceful use of your finger or thumb. In some cases, the exact cause is unknown.

Risk Factors:

  • Sex: more common in women than men
  • Medical conditions: diabetes, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis can place you at greater risk of developing trigger finger
  • Job: occupations or hobbies that involve repetitive hand use and prolonged gripping may lead to the development of trigger finger

Treatment:

Treatment will depend on the severity of symptoms; however usual treatments involve:

  • Rest: avoiding repetitive or prolonged gripping
  • Physiotherapy: gentle exercises to improve the mobility in your finger and decrease inflammation
  • Splint: your doctor may have you wear a splint to keep the affected finger in a straight position to rest the tendon
  • Medications: your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain and inflammation

In cases where conservative treatments don’t work, your doctor may suggest steroid injection or surgery.

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