When a finger gets stuck in a bent position, it is known as trigger finger. Most commonly, the ring finger and thumb are affected, but the condition can affect any finger. More than one finger can experience the condition at a time, and both hands could be affected.
Trigger finger occurs when the tendon that controls that finger cannot glide smoothly in the area that surrounds it. This condition is usually caused when one of the following issues is present:
- The tendon is enlarged
- The lining has increased in thickness
- The opening for the tendon to move gets smaller
If you’re suffering from trigger finger, the symptoms you could experience include:
- Pain or discomfort at the base of the affected finger or thumb
- Finger stiffness, tenderness or swelling
- A popping or clicking sensation as the finger moves
- A bump in the palm at the base of the affected finger
- Finger locking in a bent position, which can either stay locked or suddenly pops straight
These symptoms usually start out mild and can progress to become more severe over time. Typically, symptoms are worse in the morning.
You are more likely to develop trigger finger if you:
- Have certain health conditions such as diabetes, gout, hypothyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis
- Are between the ages of 40 and 60
- Perform tasks that involve repeated gripping. This includes certain occupations and hobbies that involve repeated hand use and prolonged gripping, such as farmers, industrial workers or musicians.
Diagnosing trigger finger
At your appointment with a hand specialist, you will have a physical examination of the hand, where the provider will ask you to open and close your hand, check for areas of discomfort, look at the smoothness of motion and evidence of locking. Your specialist will also talk to you about your symptoms and how long you’ve been experiencing them.
Treating trigger finger
Your hand specialist will come up with a treatment plan based on your symptoms and specific condition. Treatment varies based on the severity of your specific case and how long it has lasted.
Conservative, non-invasive therapies could include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Over-the-counter drugs that help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Topical treatments. Medications delivered by creams or patches through the skin right to the area of concern.
- Rest. Avoiding activities that require repetitive gripping or grasping until symptoms have improved.
- Using a splint. Splinting the affected finger(s) can help rest the tendon.
- Exercises. Gentle stretching exercises can help improve or maintain mobility in your affected finger(s).
- Corticosteroid injection. An injection of a steroid into the impacted area may reduce inflammation and allow the tendon to glide more freely.
If your symptoms aren’t improved by conservative treatments, your surgeon might suggest surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon will make a small incision near the base of your affected finger and then cut open the narrowed section of the tendon. This can be done under local anesthesia.