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Trigger Finger

Trigger finger, also called stenosing tenosynovitis, is a painful condition that creates a locking or catching feeling when you straighten or bend your finger.

Trigger Finger Hero Image 2

Trigger finger, also called stenosing tenosynovitis, is a painful condition that creates a locking or catching feeling when you straighten or bend your finger. In severe cases, your finger gets stuck in a bent position.

Flexor tendons, long fibrous cords, connect the forearm muscles to the bones that make up the fingers. These tendons normally glide through a sheath when your muscles contract, allowing your fingers to bend. When the tendons become inflamed and swollen, they can’t move easily through the sheath, creating irritation, pain, and a snapping sensation.

VIDEO: “Trigger Digit” from Viewmedica.com

What causes Trigger Finger?

While the exact cause of trigger finger is unknown, the condition is more common among athletes who play sports involving repeated and forceful gripping with their fingers and thumbs. People with chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and diabetes are at greater risk. Suffering an acute trauma to the hand may also cause this condition.

Trigger finger is most common in these sports:

• Racket sports (tennis, racket ball, squash)
• Golf

Symptoms

Symptoms of trigger finger typically emerge after chronic, heavy use of the hands rather than a single injury. Symptoms may start with mild discomfort and get progressively worse. Common symptoms include:

• Pain and swelling at the base of the finger or the thumb
• Tenderness or a bump where the finger and palm meet
• Stiffness, especially in the morning
• Clicking or snapping sensation when you bend your finger
• Finger locked in bent position

When to see a doctor

If you have symptoms of trigger finger that do not go away or get worse with time, make an appointment to see your doctor. He or she will ask questions about your medical history and physical activity. Your doctor will examine your hand, looking for areas of tenderness, bumps, and evidence of triggering.

Non-operative treatment

Trigger finger is commonly treated without surgery. Conservative treatments include:

• Rest: Avoid activities that involve heavy use of the hands and gripping movements, like racket sports.
• Splinting: A splint, especially when worn at night, may help rest the tendon by keeping it extended.
• Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication like ibuprofen can be helpful for relieving pain.
• Steroid Injections: Corticosteroid (anti-inflammatory medicine) injections can reduce swelling of the tendons and resolve the triggering sensation.
• Physical Therapy: Gentle exercises can help reduce stiffness and increase mobility in your finger.

You can also try these exercises at home:

Trigger Finger

Surgical Treatment

Your doctor may suggest surgery if your symptoms do not resolve with non-operative treatments. Surgery would involve cutting the tendon sheath at the base of your finger or thumb to make more room for the inflamed flexor tendons to glide. Pain and triggering relief can usually be expected after the operation, although the area may be sore for a few months.

Recovery

Typically, patients can move their fingers right after surgery, though pain and swelling take several months to fully resolve. Hand therapy may be needed as part of the athlete’s recovery to maximize the affected finger’s range of motion.

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