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What is Trigger Finger?

Being able to bend your fingers is a movement so natural to everyday use, we can take it for granted. If or when your fingers or thumb catch or lock when bent, it can be a painful condition known as trigger finger.

Ordinarily, the tendons and muscles in your hand and arms bend and straighten your fingers and thumbs. The tendon itself usually glides through the tissue (or sheath) that covers it thanks to the synovium, a lubricating membrane surrounding the joint.

But if the tendon becomes inflamed and swollen, prolonged irritation of the tendon sheath will produce scarring and thickening that inevitably impedes the tendon’s motion. As a result, bending your finger or thumb can tug the inflamed tendon through a narrower sheath, which make it snap or pop.

Repeated movement or the forceful use of the finger or thumb is usually what causes trigger finger. Although it can also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and diabetes, or by grasping something firmly for a long period of time.

That’s why industrial workers, musicians, and farm hands often suffer from trigger finger – because they repeat finger and thumb movements often. The condition is more common among women than men, and occurs most often in people who are between 40 and 60 years old.

How Do You Know You Have Trigger Finger?

One of the most obvious symptoms of trigger finger is when you experience soreness at the base of the finger or thumb. There’s also a painful clicking or snapping sound when you bend or straighten the affected finger. The catching sensation associated with trigger finger tends to get worse after you rest the finger or thumb. The finger or thumb may lock in a bent or straight position as the condition worsens and may need to be gently straightened out with your other hand.

In some cases, the finger may be swollen and there could be a bump over the joint in the palm of the hand. Also, the finger may be stiff and painful or locked in a bent position. Of course, your doctor can examine your hand and fingers and diagnose trigger finger without a lab test or X-ray.

In terms of treating trigger finger, the first step requires resting your finger or thumb. To keep the joint from moving, your doctor may put a splint on your hand.

If your symptoms persist, your doctor may address the inflammation by prescribing drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen. Another option is injecting a steroid into the tendon sheath. Or, if your trigger finger doesn’t improve, your doctor may recommend surgery.

The recovery time from trigger finger will depend on the severity of the condition and the choice of treatment.  Splinting, for example, could last up to six weeks. However, most patients recover within a few weeks provided they rest the finger or thumb and they take anti-inflammatory medication.

The Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs regularly treats injuries to bones and joints, providing the best of care. If you’ve feeling pain in your hands and suspect it may be trigger finger or another condition, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons will diagnose the condition and explain your treatment options. Call us at (719) 623-1050 today for an appointment.

Symptoms of Trigger Finger

The complex anatomy of the hand consists of 27 bones, along with muscles, joints, tendons, nerves, and ligaments. If any of these structures become injured, pain and loss of function can put a damper on almost all activities. In other words, you rely on the use of your hands for almost everything you do on a daily basis. However, when you have constant pain and discomfort in your hands or wrists, these simple tasks become more difficult and uncomfortable. Some conditions, such as trigger finger, are not only painful, but also affect your appearance and function.

Any hand or wrist problem causing pain, swelling, discoloration, numbness or a tingling sensation, or abnormal shape, that persists for more than two or three days should be evaluated by your orthopedist to establish the cause, and allow treatment as early as possible. Early diagnosis and early treatment generally give the best results.

So, you notice that one day when making a fist, you try to straighten your fingers afterwards, when one catches when attempting to bring it back into a straight position, causing pain. After you go to a doctor to check it out, they diagnose you with a condition called trigger finger, caused by overuse.

Trigger finger, known medically as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition that causes pain, locking, popping or clicking of the fingers or thumb when the hand is opened or closed. Muscles in your forearm attach to tendons that run all the way down to the bones at the ends of your fingers. These muscles are what help you bend your fingers into a fist. 

The reason why we are able to open and close our hand is due to our tendons being pulled close to the bones of the fingers by pulleys. If these pulleys become too thick, stiff, tight or swollen, commonly due to inflammation, this causes the finger to “trigger” or get stuck when trying to straighten your fingers after being in a fist. Therefore, if the tendon cannot glide freely, trigger finger occurs.

Symptoms of trigger finger can occur differently for people, which is why it is not always easy to identify the cause. In its early stages, trigger finger can cause pain on the palm of your hand, or on the back side of a finger. Trigger finger causes inflammation, creating symptoms of stiffness and swelling. As the muscles and tendons in our fingers give us the ability to move, when someone is diagnosed with trigger finger, there can be a painful snapping sensation when opening and closing the hand. Often one of our fingers can get stuck in a certain position, making it painful and impossible to straighten or bend it.

To learn more about trigger finger and its symptoms, call Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs at (719) 623-1050 or request an appointment online.