Introduction to Trigger finger
Trigger finger is a condition where swelling of the tendon in your finger or thumb makes it difficult to bend or straighten.
What is Trigger finger?
Trigger finger is a condition where swelling of the tendon in your finger or thumb makes it difficult to bend or straighten. Tendons join bones and muscles together, and usually when your finger moves the tendon glides smoothly through a tunnel, called a sheath. If the tendon or sheath becomes inflamed however, it can cause pain and stiffness in the finger. As it becomes increasingly swollen, it may begin to snap or lock in place.
Sometimes referred to as stenosing tenosynovitis, this condition usually begins by affecting the thumb, but it can affect several fingers across both hands at the same time.
Around 2 or 3 in 100 people are affected by trigger finger each year. Although more common in women and those aged between 40 – 60 years old, anyone of any age or sex can get this condition.
What are the causes for Trigger finger?
The exact cause of trigger finger is not always clear, however in some cases it is the result of repetitive or forceful use of the finger or thumb. This is why jobs involving the regular use of tools or instruments, such as a musician or industrial worker, may precipitate the condition.
In the minority of cases it can develop as part of a pre-existing disease, and conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, gout, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes can all potentially cause trigger finger.
What are the symptoms of Trigger finger?
Trigger finger often starts with tenderness at the base of the affected finger or thumb, which can be particularly bad when trying to grip. Other typical symptoms include: A painful click when you straighten of bend the affected finger, stiffness in the finger, which may be worse in the morning or after rest, pain or tenderness in your palm or the affected finger getting stuck in a bent position.
How is Trigger finger treated?
Trigger finger does not always require treatment, and sometimes it resolves by itself over time. However, if left untreated, there is a risk that the affected finger or thumb may become permanently locked or bent.
Contact your GP if you fear you may have trigger finger, they will examine your hands and advise you on appropriate treatment options. Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen will usually be recommended first, and you will be advised to rest the finger as much as possible. Sometimes a splint will be used to keep your finger straight while it recovers, but this may only be necessary at night while you sleep. A corticosteroid injection might will be considered if these measures fail to solve the issue, steroids are medications regularly used to reduce swelling and inflammation.
If the condition persists after all of these options have been exhausted then surgery can be used to release the tendon and prevent the symptoms, but it can take up to 4 weeks to recover from this procedure.