Trigger finger is a common condition and can be disabling. The ability to bend the fingers is governed by supportive tendons that connect muscles to the bones of the fingers. The tendons run along the length of the bone and are kept in place at intervals by tunnels of ligaments called pulleys. When the fingers bend, or are straightened, a slippery coating called tenosynovium helps the tendons smoothly glide through the ligaments with reduced friction.
Inflammation in the tenosynovium leads to a condition called trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis or flexor tendonitis, where one of the fingers or thumb of the hand is caught in a bent position. The affected digit may straighten with a quick snap, like pulling and releasing the trigger on a gun, hence the name trigger finger.
Trigger finger is caused by inflammation of the tenosynovium. Inflammation forms a nodule and makes it difficult for the tendon to glide smoothly within its sheath causing "catching" of the finger in a bent position and then suddenly releasing the finger straight.
Other causes of trigger finger can include the following:
Repetitive Motion: Individuals who perform heavy, repetitive hand and wrist movements with prolonged gripping at work or play are believed to be at high risk for developing trigger finger.
Medical Conditions: Conditions associated with developing trigger finger include hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and certain infections such as Tuberculosis.
Gender: Trigger finger is more common in females than males.
Signs and Symptoms
Commonly reported symptoms associated with trigger finger include the following: -
- Bent finger suddenly clicks or pops out and straightens
- Pain and tenderness over inflamed tendon nodule
- Finger get locked with inability to straighten if the nodule grows large and gets stuck in the pulley
- Symptoms are worse in the morning
Long-term complications of untreated trigger finger can include, permanent a locked finger (finger held in bent position), swelling and contracture, or rupture
Hand and wrist conditions should be evaluated by an orthopaedic hand surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment. Trigger finger is diagnosed based on the medical history and physical examination.
Professor Bain will recommend conservative treatment options to treat trigger finger symptoms. Treatment options will vary depending on the severity of the condition.
Conservative treatment options include:
- Treating any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the problem, such as diabetes or arthritis
- Rest the hand for a few weeks or more by avoiding repetitive gripping actions. Avoid activities that bring on the symptoms.
- Strengthening and stretching exercises with the affected finger may be suggested.
- Hand therapy may be recommended. Modalities include massage, heat, ice, exercises and splinting to improve the finger.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help to relieve pain and inflammation.
- Steroid injections into the affected finger may help reduce the inflammation.
If conservative treatment options fail to resolve the symptoms, Professor Bain may recommend you undergo a surgical procedure to release the tendon.
Trigger finger release surgery is a minimally invasive procedure performed under local anaesthesia. A neurolept (twilight) made be added. Professor Bain makes one small incision to the affected finger area, about 2cm long, and releases the tight portion of the flexor tendon sheath.