Trigger Finger

Trigger finger or trigger thumb, also called stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition in which your finger gets temporarily stuck in a bent position, as if squeezing a trigger. It may happen in any finger. Your finger may straighten with a pop, like a trigger being released. Trigger finger happens when the space inside the sheath that surrounds the finger’s tendon becomes inflamed and therefore tighter around the tendon. This inflammation, and nodules that may form on the tendon, make finger movement difficult.

People with certain medical conditions, such as Diabetes, are more likely to be affected.

Orthopaedic surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are experts at diagnosing and treating trigger finger. They provide non-surgical treatment options for mild cases of trigger finger, including anti-inflammatory medication and steroid injections. They also provide surgical treatment when trigger finger is more severe, such as tendon release surgery.

Causes

The cause of trigger finger is often unknown but risk factors may include:

  • Age (typically presents around middle age)
  • Health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid conditions, and diabetes

Symptoms

Symptoms of trigger finger may follow a period of heavy hand use and may affect one or more fingers. Symptoms can include:

  • Catching or popping in finger or thumb joints
  • Pain where the finger or thumb meets the palm
  • Pain when straightening or bending finger
  • Sensitivity to pressure
  • Stiffness, particularly in the morning
  • Swelling
  • Tender lump in your palm

Diagnosis

Your orthopaedic surgeon will evaluate your medical history and conduct a physical examination to determine if you have trigger finger.

Treatment

Non-surgical treatment

For mild symptoms, non-surgical treatment may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Night splint
  • Resting the finger or thumb
  • Steroid injection, which is the most common first step in treatment

Surgical treatments

If non-surgical treatments don’t ease symptoms, surgery may be recommended. Surgical approaches include:

  • Tendon release surgery involves making a tiny incision in the palm into the sheath encompassing the tendon. Cutting the sheath enlarges the space and allows the tendon to glide more easily.

Recovery

The length of recovery varies for each individual, but is typically within a few weeks to months. Following surgery, the affected finger or thumb should bend and straighten normally. It’s common to have soreness in your palm. Raising your hand above your heart can reduce pain and swelling.

If necessary, our certified hand therapists can assist your recovery following surgery through range of motion, strength and flexibility exercises.

Learn more about trigger finger – BWH Health Library

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