Trigger digit, or stenosing tenosynovitis, is a narrowing of the tendon sheath in the finger or thumb that interferes with normal finger movement.
What You Need To Know About Trigger Finger
- What is Trigger Finger?
- What Causes Trigger Finger?
- Trigger Finger Symptoms
- How is Trigger Finger Diagnosed?
- Trigger Finger Treatment
What is Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger — also known as trigger digit or stenosing tenosynovitis — most commonly affects the thumb and ring finger. People with trigger finger experience digits that stiffen and pop when the fingers bend. Patients of all ages, even newborns, can experience symptoms of trigger finger, but the condition becomes more common with age and in people with diabetes.
Perhaps, the most noticeable symptom of trigger finger occurs when the finger remains in a bent position. This fixed position starts with inflammation in the tendon sheath (a tunnel protecting the movement of the tendon). The sheath obstructs the tendons and pulleys from moving the fingers when inflamed.
Occasionally, the flexor tendons responsible for finger movement experience swelling as well. The finger may even develop a small nodule or noticeable bump. If the fingers seem obstructed by this type of swelling, popping, pain, and limitations in movement often occur.
Finding expert trigger finger treatment starts with a visit to Resurgens Hand & Wrist Center. Schedule an appointment at one of our Metro Atlanta locations now!
What Causes Trigger Finger?
Overuse and repetitive motion most often cause trigger finger. Normally, finger tendons move easily through fibrous tunnels also known as tendon sheaths. Bending and flexing the finger open and closed requires little effort when these sheaths are in normal condition.
When inflamed, the fibrous tunnels (that tendons typically glide effortlessly through) swell from excessive force or movement, narrowing to slow the shifting of the tendons, and occasionally, causing the finger to stiffen in the bent position.
While the exact causes of trigger finger vary, some of the factors that lead to trigger finger include:
- Over-excessive or repetitive gripping: Typically, patients with hobbies that require repetitive bending are more likely to develop trigger finger.
- Excessive force on the finger: Occasionally, patients develop trigger finger by placing an unusual amount of pressure on the finger.
- Pre-existing medical conditions or surgeries: patients with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or those who have undergone carpal tunnel surgery may be at a higher risk of developing trigger finger.
- Sex: Women more commonly contract trigger finger than men.
Trigger Finger Symptoms
Trigger finger typically affects the thumb and ring finger, but it can affect other fingers. If your finger resists flexing from bent to straight, you should immediately schedule an appointment with a Resurgens Orthopaedics specialist.
Some of the most common symptoms of trigger finger include:
- Pain and irritation when moving the finger from bent to straight
- Tenderness at the base of the finger or thumb
- Excessive pain in the morning that decreases through the day
- A bump at the bottom of the finger, near the palm
- A locking sensation or popping sound with finger movement
- A stiff, immovable bent finger
- Heat in the affected area caused by infection
How is Trigger Finger Diagnosed?
At Resurgens Orthopaedics, one of our Hand & Wrist specialists will inquire about your symptoms and medical history. They may also ask when the condition occurred.
After developing an understanding of your medical background, the doctor will examine the range of movement of your digits by having you open and close your fingers. If they notice any triggering, popping, or lumps that move when the fingers move, the specialist will diagnose the condition and make a plan for restoration.
Typically, x-rays and other image tests are not required to diagnose trigger finger.
Trigger Finger Treatment
Treatment for trigger finger can vary based on the significance of the condition. In most cases, rest and medication lessen the swelling and restore the finger's range of motion. However, some severe cases require surgery.
In less severe cases of trigger finger, patients undergo a few simple methods of treatment to repair their swollen tendons.
- Rest - alleviating the swollen tendons from movements that cause pain or swelling for an extended time
- Medication - NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as acetaminophen help to decrease the swelling and pain
- Splinting - using a split to hold the finger straight and still while sleeping
- Physical therapy - simple exercises to relieve stiffness in the finger
- Steroid Injections - if symptoms persist, 1-2 steroid injections may reduce the swelling and heal the finger
In some severe cases, our specialists recommend surgery. This simple, outpatient surgery involves a minor incision at the finger's base. The orthopaedic surgeon then cuts the inflamed sheath, widening the tunnel and allowing tendons to bend the fingers more freely.
Typically, patients return to normal activities (typing, driving, etc.) within 24 hours, with little pain and irritation.
If you experience swelling or irritation at the base of your digits, contact Resurgens Orthopaedics today. We specialize in helping our patients restore motion and vitality to their aching bones, and we want to help you.