Trigger finger is a condition, which causes one or more of the fingers to become stuck in a bent position. It is more common in women and those between the age of 40 and 60.
The tendons in the finger are surrounded by tissue known as the tendon sheath. Trigger finger can develop when inflammation develops around the sheath or if the tendon itself becomes too thick. In both cases, the tendon may not move as easily, which can lead to symptoms of trigger finger.
Trigger finger can affect any finger, but it occurs more commonly in the ring and middle finger, along with the thumb. Work-related tasks, such as gripping a steering wheel or using power tools repeatedly may be a risk factor in developing the condition. People with rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing trigger finger.
Symptoms and Natural History
The main symptom of trigger finger involves the affected finger becoming stuck or locked in a bent position. As the finger is forced back to a straight position, some people feel a pop. Trigger finger also causes stiffness and a crackling sound in the finger.
A tender nodule at the base of the affected finger can also develop. Although it can vary, pain may be worse when trying to grip an object with the affected finger.
In most instances, trigger finger starts out with mild stiffness and gradually progresses to problems with movement of the finger. Although the condition is not serious, it can affect day to day activities that involve gripping.
An exam of the hand, along with a symptom review is usually all that is needed to make a diagnosis of trigger finger. During an exam, your doctor will have you open and close your hand and examine the affected finger for difficulty moving, nodules and tenderness. In most cases, additional testing is not required.
Self-help Treatments for Trigger Finger
In a large number of instances, self-help treatment at home is all that is needed to treat trigger finger. Limiting activities that involve repetitive gripping for a few weeks may allow the finger to rest and improve symptoms. Soaking the finger in warm water may decrease stiffness and increase mobility. Stretching exercises to keep the finger mobile may also be recommended after symptoms improve.
Standard Clinical Treatments for Trigger Finger
Steroid injections may be used to treat trigger finger, especially if it has not been going on too long. The injections may provide temporary relief of stiffness and help decrease inflammation.
In some cases, a splint, which keeps the finger in an extended position, may be recommended to rest the tendon. Although it can vary, your doctor may instruct you to wear the splint at night for a few months until the condition improves.
If other treatments do not work, surgery may be performed. The surgery involves cutting the tendon sheath, which may allow the finger to move easier.
American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Trigger Finger. http://www.assh.org/handcare/hand-arm-conditions/trigger-finger
Cleveland Clinic. Trigger Finger. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/orthopaedics-rheumatology/diseases-conditions/hic-trigger-finger-and-dequervains-disease