Get full recovery from Trigger Finger with LA Orthopedic Group.
When a finger catches or hooks while bent or when attempting to straighten the finger, it’s referred to as trigger finger, or trigger thumb if the thumb is affected. The condition occurs when tendons become inflamed enough to irritate surface tissues (sheathes) and produce scar tissue.
- The extra tissue can make it difficult to move the affected finger or thumb
- It can produce a “pop” or “snap” if the tendon presses through a narrowed sheath
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Causes and Symptoms
More common in women and adults 40-60 years of age, trigger finger tends to affect people who have circulation issues due to conditions like arthritis, although repetitious finger movements can also be a contributing factor. Some individuals also experience trigger finger after holding an object, such as a power tool, for long periods of time. Possible symptoms include:
- Swelling in the affected finger or thumb
- “Clicking” or “snapping” when attempting to bend a finger
- Finger locking in a bent or straight position
- Pain when moving the finger or thumb
- Bump over the affected finger joint
Diagnosing Trigger Finger
Diagnosis almost always involves only a physical examination of the affected finger or thumb. Image testing usually isn’t necessary to make a diagnosis.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
The initial treatment often recommended is rest of the affected finger or thumb. In some cases, a splint is used to stabilize the finger until it heals. If pain continues after splinting, anti-inflammatory medications or acetaminophen may be recommended to reduce swelling.
Another treatment option that may provide relief for trigger finger is a steroid injection into the affected area. Injections may benefit a patient by reducing swelling to allow tendons in the finger or thumb to move without pain. Along with a local anesthetic to ease discomfort from the shot, anti-inflammatory medication is placed into the tendon sheath.
The steroid medication may provide enough relief for the tendon to naturally heal on its own. Injections are less likely to be effective if trigger finger has been a persistent problem or if a patient has a condition like type 2 diabetes that may contribute to inflammation around joints.
Surgery for Trigger Finger
Should non-surgical treatments fail to provide relief or if tendon damage is extensive, surgery may become an option. A common procedure involves cutting the tendon sheath. When it heals, the tendon becomes looser, allowing the finger to move easier without locking. It’s usually a minimally invasive outpatient procedure.
Recovery with anti-inflammatory medications as the sole treatment may take a few weeks. If splinting is necessary, it may take about 4-6 weeks for the finger to heal. With surgery, many patients are able to move their finger after the procedure. Full recovery from surgery can take anywhere from several weeks to months, depending on the extent of the damage corrected. The recovery period is often shorter if minimally invasive surgical techniques are used.
Trigger finger can sometimes be prevented by controlling underlying conditions such as diabetes and arthritis that tend to make inflammation worse and minimizing repetitious finger or thumb movements. Varying finger motions, periodically switching hands when doing work that involves repetitive motions, and doing hand or finger stretches may also be effective preventative measures for some individuals.