What is a trigger finger?

A trigger finger is a very common condition. Trigger finger is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis. It is a condition in which one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position. Your finger may straighten with a snap — like a trigger being pulled and released.

What causes trigger finger?

Trigger finger occurs when inflammation narrows the space within the sheath that surrounds the tendon in the affected finger. Generally a small nodule forms under the skin, at the site where the tendon is constricted by its sheath. If trigger finger is severe, your finger may become locked in a bent position.

People whose work or hobbies require repetitive gripping actions are at higher risk of developing trigger finger. The condition is also more common in women and in anyone with diabetes. Treatment of trigger finger varies depending on the severity.

Trigger finger symptoms

Generally, there are no visible symptoms. You may have pain when clicking, popping, or snapping your fingers. You may also experience stiffness in your finger.

There may also be a presence of soreness or a bump at the base of your finger. A locked finger is the inability to straighten out a bent finger, and with force it may straighten out with a painful click.

Trigger finger can sometimes be confused with symptoms for Dupuytren’s contracture.

Trigger finger diagnosis and treatment

A diagnosis for trigger finger also requires a clinical visit to your doctor. X-rays are normally not used, but an ultrasound can define the thickening at the base of the finger (called an A1 pulley), which confirms the diagnosis.

Treatment options involve use of a night splint (made up by the hand therapist) and hand therapy. Medicines may relieve pain and slow down the progression of the condition. Cortisone injections are also used for pain. If the snapping or locking of the finger gets significantly worse with time, surgery can be considered.

Trigger finger surgery

Surgery is day surgery only, and is done under a combination of local anaesthetic and sleeping medication. A small cut is made over the nodule, and the sheath is released. The cut generally needs 1-2 stitches, which are removed at 2 weeks. Movement is commenced immediately after surgery and patients generally have an uneventful recovery.

Trigger finger surgery recovery time

  • Generally, a day surgery with no hospital stay is common
  • Your fingers and hand need to stay dry for 7 days
  • Dressings come off at 7 days after surgery
  • Your fingers and hand can be used for routine activity like making a coffee, writing and typing
  • After 7 days, no restrictions. If still stiff, then hand therapy is normally required

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