Trigger finger – known in medical circles as stenosing tenosynovitis – occurs when one of your fingers gets into a bent position and either won’t straighten or straightens only after catching. It’s not uncommon for trigger finger to occur from overuse that irritates the tendons, such as when hunting. Conservative therapy may be helpful in some cases, but surgery is often necessary. Here’s what you need to know about trigger finger, courtesy of the Orthopedic Research Clinic of Alaska.
What is Trigger Finger?
Although it can affect any finger or the thumb, trigger finger often occurs in those used most frequently. The flexor tendon is what bends the finger – it runs through a band of thick tissue called the tendon sheath. The sheath is important to keep the tendon snug against the bones of the wrist and hand, but the tendon can become irritated as it slides back and forth. Eventually, the tendon thickens and nodules (bumps) form in the tendon itself. The sheath may also become thicker. The end result is that the tendon is less mobile.
Trigger Finger Risk Factors & Causes
The exact cause of trigger finger is unknown. However, gender plays a role – women are more likely to develop trigger finger than men. Trigger finger usually occurs after the age of 40 and up to about age 60. Certain medical problems, like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, increase the risk of trigger finger. Overuse or activities that strain the hand also increase the risk of trigger finger. In most cases, symptoms gradually occur without an obvious injury. Typical symptoms are swelling, a tender lump in the palm, pain when you bend the finger and a sensation of catching or popping in the finger or thumb joints.
Treating Trigger Finger
An examination and review of your symptoms usually provide all the information necessary for a diagnosis of trigger finger. Mild symptoms may be treated conservatively, with rest. Some people find a splint is helpful. Over-the-counter medications can help relieve pain and inflammation. Steroid injections may be used to reduce inflammation in the tendon sheath. A steroid injection is likely to be only a temporary solution; if a second injection doesn’t solve the problem, you may need surgery. The purpose of the surgery is to widen the tendon tunnel so the tendons can slide easily. It is an outpatient procedure and the incision is small. It takes several weeks to recover and it may be six months before all symptoms disappear.
With the advent of hunting season in Alaska, now is the time to think about dealing with a troublesome trigger finger. If you have questions or want to schedule an appointment, please contact us.