Trigger finger sounds like something out of the wild west, but it’s actually what the condition resembles: a finger that is stuck in a trigger-pulling, bent position. And when it does get un-stuck, the finger snaps into place – whether you’re trying to bend it or to straighten it. In severe cases of trigger finger, the finger stays bent and cannot be straightened.
Clinically termed stenosing tenosynovitis, diagnosing the condition is very simple and easy. A doctor will ask the patient to open and close their fingers on the affected hand, checking for pain, quality of motion, and any sign of a finger locking in a curled position.
They will also examine the palm for any evidence of a knot or lump of tissue that moves in correlation with the opening and closing of the finger. If this does happen, it may be a sign that the tendon has been affected and manifesting as trigger finger.
Symptoms of Trigger Finger
Trigger finger usually affects the ring finger or thumb; it affects the index and middle finger less often, and almost never the pinky. When it affects the thumb, the condition is called trigger thumb.
The first signs of the condition are a gradual thickening at the base of the affected finger. Eventually, the finger may hurt and remain locked in a curled position.
Stiffness is more common in the mornings and after periods of inactivity, although the affected digit can be manipulated with the other hand to return the finger to its normal position.
Causes of the Condition
People who constantly grip items for work or a hobby – such as carpenters, masons, bartenders, musicians, and hairdressers – are at risk of developing trigger finger. This is because the tendons of the hand control the curling and gripping motions, and these tendons attach muscles to bone. The tendons rest in a protective sheath.
When the sheath becomes irritated and inflamed, a lump can form that will move along the palm as the finger opens and closes – which verifies the condition as trigger finger. Sometimes, it can be caused by underlying diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or gout.
Continual irritation of this sheath can cause scarring, thickening of the tendon, and the development of a small nodule in the tendon.
If someone has had prior surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, there is actually a correlation between this surgery and the development of trigger finger.
How Is Trigger Finger Treated?
Treatment options are dictated by the severity of the condition and how deeply it affects an individual’s quality of life. If it only happens on occasion, then simply splinting the troubled finger to an adjacent finger can help, and ice can be applied to combat pain.
Targeted injections of steroids can loosen up the finger or thumb. In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary – depending on the presence of pain or loss of function.
Sports Medicine Specialists in San Antonio
If you think you may be developing trigger finger, or if you are suffering from some other musculoskeletal condition, seeking early medical attention can help stifle any further progression.
If you are in the San Antonio area, contact the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine by calling (210) 692-7400 or request an appointment online, and regain the full usefulness of your hands once again!