trigger fingerTrigger finger may sound funny but it’s no laughing matter if you have this condition.  It is a relatively common problem that is on the increase. Below, we look at trigger finger causes and remedies.

 

What Is Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger (also called stenosing tenosynovitis) is a condition that affects one or more of the tendons in the hand. If the tendon becomes swollen and inflamed, it can then be difficult to bend the affected finger or thumb. Instead of closing smoothly, the finger hesitates, then snaps closed (“trigger” affect). When trying to extend the finger, a similar pause may occur before it “snaps” into full extension. Triggering can also affect the thumb.

 

Symptoms of Trigger Finger

Symptoms include the following:

  • Pain at the base of the affected finger or thumb when you try to move it or press on it.
  • Stiffness or clicking when you move the affected finger or thumb, especially first thing in the morning.
  • The inflamed tendon will be swollen and usually looks like a small bump or nodule in the lower part of your finger.

 

Causes of Trigger Finger

  • Trigger finger is caused by inflammation or scarring of the tendon sheath around the flexor tendons. These tendons usually pull the finger inward towards the palm (flexion).
  • Usually, trigger finger occurs because of repetitive trauma. People whose job requires continual gripping for example, gardeners are at higher risk of developing trigger finger. Their job involves activities such as pruning, and clipping which entails repetitive gripping, or flexing of the thumb or forefinger. People using computer keyboards, industrial workers, and musicians are also prone to this problem.
  • Trigger finger can also occur because of an underlying or pre-exisitng disease that causes inflammation of tissues of the hand, such as rheumatoid arthritis. It can also occur in people with diabetes.

 

Treatment of Trigger Finger

Treatment varies depending on severity and cause, so an accurate diagnosis is important. Trigger finger can initially be treated at home with remedies including:

Rest

Stop (or limit) the repetitive action that’s causing the problem. Explain the situation to your boss and they may be able to give you different tasks to perform at work.

Ice

  • Applying ice is an effective treatment for musculoskeletal injuries, such as trigger finger.
  • Wrap the ice (bag of frozen peas or ice pack) in a towel to reduce the swelling and pain. Ice should be applied for 10-15 minutes every 2-3 hours.
  • Compressing the ice against your finger and hand with a bandage or elastic support will also help reduce the pain and swelling. But don’t tie it too tight as this can restrict blood flow and cause more severe damage to your finger.

Medication

  • Using over-the-counter medications, such as naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, Cambia), can help reduce the inflammation. Consult your doctor.
  • The quickest and most effective treatment is a local cortisone injection given by your doctor. It is injected into the tendon sheath around the affected tendon. Most people respond positively to the injection.

Splinting

  • Your doctor may advise you to wear a finger splint at night. This keeps the affected finger in an extended position while you sleep. Alternatively, you can buy a finger splint online.
  • During the day, remove the splint periodically and perform finger stretches or light massages.
  • You may need to wear the splint for up to 6 weeks.

Surgery

Surgery is necessary if other treatments fail. Surgical procedures involve releasing the affected sheath to allow the tendon to move freely again.  It can be up to 100% effective.

If you suspect you may have trigger finger, it’s important to get a correct diagnosis from your doctor. Trigger finger causes and remedies vary, and identifying what exactly is causing your problem is vital in determining what treatment will be most effective for you.