Trigger finger

What is it?

Trigger finger is a condition that affects the tendons that bend the fingers. When the tendon sheath is inflamed, it makes finger extension or flexion difficult. This can cause the fingers to lock or trigger suddenly. The medical term for it is tenosynovitis.

Prognosis

It is not common for trigger finger to spontaneously resolve. If it is not treated, it is likely to be a painful discomfort. If the finger gets trapped, it could cause permanent stiffness.

What are the symptoms?

Trigger finger symptoms may start with discomfort at the base of the finger, which could cause inflammation and swelling. The most common symptoms are:

  • ​A small lump in the palm of the hand, normally around the trochlea.
  • Inflammation.
  • Finger joint pressure or paralysis.
  • Pain when flexing or extending the finger.

Medical tests

The diagnosis can normally be made based on the patients’ medical history and symptoms. A physical exam is normally carried out to assess the stiffness and sensitivity of the affected fingers. The doctor may choose to do an ultrasound to check the swelling or they may carry out specific tests if they think it may be related to a different condition.

What causes it?

There is no clear cause for this condition, but it is thought to be related to rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or diabetes. It is more common in women and people aged between 40 and 60 years old. People who regularly carry out activities that require repetitive phalange flexion and extension for long periods of time, or put intense external pressure on a finger, are more likely to be affected by trigger finger.

How can it be prevented?

Tenosynovitis can only partially be prevented. If it is due to an underlying condition (rheumatoid arthritis for example) that causes thickening of the finger tendon sheaths and causes involuntary movements and pain, it should be treated before it causes trigger finger. It may also be caused by a tendon mechanical overload. Certain movements should be avoided, and exercises should be carried out to strengthen the tendons.

Recommendations include:

  • Limit repetitive or forced finger activities
  • Alternate activities
  • Rest between tasks
  • Try to not force movement
  • Regularly exercise fingers and palm.

What is the treatment?

Trigger finger treatment normally involves alleviating tendon pressure and enabling finger movement without any discomfort. A splint or anti-inflammatory medications are often used. If these treatments don’t work, surgery may be resorted to.

What specialist should I see?

Orthopaedic specialists are devoted to preventing, diagnosing, and treating musculoskeletal conditions such as trigger finger.

Learn more about trigger finger here!

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