What is trigger finger?

Trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis) is a medical condition that occurs when the tendons in the finger become irritated or inflamed. Trigger finger most commonly impacts the thumb or middle finger. When the condition occurs in the thumb it is called trigger thumb.

In severe trigger finger cases, the finger can become locked into a bent position. In these cases, the inflammation interferes with the function of the tendon causing the joint to lock. To “unlock” the finger, the person must pull and straighten it; this may cause a snap or clicking noise.

Causes of trigger finger

Trigger finger or trigger thumb is caused by repetitive motion in the finger or the thumb.

Other conditions that may lead to trigger finger or thumb are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gout
  • Diabetes

Risk factors for trigger finger

Certain careers such as farmers, industrial workers and musicians are at higher risk to develop trigger finger because of the repetitive movement of their fingers.

Other risk factors of trigger finger or thumb include:

  • Sex — women are more likely to develop trigger finger
  • Age — trigger finger typically impacts people 40-60 years old

Symptoms of trigger finger

The most common symptom of trigger finger is clicking or snapping in the finger joint. This is often accompanied by pain and stiffness during the morning hours.

Other symptoms of trigger finger include:

  • Bump on the joint in the palm of the hand
  • Finger that is locked in a bent position that may suddenly pop open
  • Finger that is stuck in a bent position that will not go back to the normal state

Diagnosis of trigger finger

Trigger finger is typically diagnosed in a physical exam by an orthopedist or sports medicine doctor. The physician will take the patient’s medical history as well as exam the patient’s fingers and thumbs to determine the cause of the condition.

Treatments for trigger finger

Treatments for trigger finger range from rest to surgery that releases the tendon in the finger.  Physicians will often recommend ice, compresses and anti-inflammatory medications as initial treatments.

Other treatments for trigger finger include:

  • Splint/brace
  • Steroid injection
  • Trigger finger surgery

Recovery from trigger finger

Most people recover from trigger finger with rest, ice, and medication. For those who require a splint, recovery may take up to six weeks.

For patients who must have surgery, recovery could be much longer.

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