At first, it started with a bit of pain in your finger or thumb.
Your finger painfully locks into a bent position and snaps when you move it back into place, creating a trigger sound.
If this experience sounds familiar, then you may have trigger finger.
If you suspect you have trigger finger or thumb, it can be tough to understand what you should do next. There are lots of different treatment options, and you want to be certain that you’re getting the very best care possible.
Of course, you also want to make sure you understand everything you can about the condition itself.
This post is here to help.
Read on to learn the symptoms, what causes it, treatment options, and more when it comes to trigger finger.
What Is Trigger Finger?
Let’s start by making sure you’re clear on what exactly trigger finger/trigger thumb — or stenosing tenosynovitis — actually is.
If you have trigger finger, one of your fingers (usually your ring finger or thumb) gets locked in a bent position. You’ll also experience stiffness, pain, and of course, limited mobility.
The condition gets its name from the fact that, when your finger moves or straightens out, it makes a snapping sound akin to a trigger being pulled.
So, what’s actually happening in the finger?
Your forearm muscles are connected to your finger bones by your flexor tendons. These flexor tendons are what allow you to bend your fingers, which then causes your forearm muscles to contract.
These flexor tendons move through your tendon sheath, which is a small tunnel in your fingers and palms. The tendon sheath is surrounded by tissues (called pulleys) that keep your flexor tendons close to the bones of your fingers.
When you have trigger finger, these pulley tissues get inflamed and enlarged. So, it becomes tough for your flexor tendons to make it through the tunnel and straighten out.
Sometimes a nodule also develops on the flexor tendon, causing the signature “pop” when you move the finger.
Depending on the severity of your individual case, you may be able to unbend your finger, or it may become completely locked.
What Causes Trigger Finger?
So, now that you have a better understanding of what trigger finger is, we know you’re also curious about what causes it.
There isn’t one singular cause of trigger finger. Instead, the cause will vary based on the individual.
Usually, trigger finger develops due to a repeated movement, especially repeated gripping actions.
People who work as farmers, musicians, in a factory, or as even writers are at a higher risk of dealing with trigger finger.
Additionally, if you have conditions like diabetes or even rheumatoid arthritis, you’re much more likely to have trigger finger. The same goes if you’ve been diagnosed with gout.
If you’ve recently had surgery to help you overcome carpal tunnel, you may develop trigger finger as a complication. Generally, this is mostly a risk in the first six months after your surgery.
Your gender may also play a role, as women are much more likely to develop trigger finger than men.
In general, most people develop trigger finger between the ages of 40-60.
Common Trigger Finger Symptoms
If you suspect you may have trigger finger, it’s important to know the most common symptoms to be on the lookout for.
First of all, listen for the tell-tale popping and clicking sign when you either bend or straighten out your finger.
You may also experience extreme and painful stiffness in your finger. It will likely be at its most intense when you first wake up in the morning.
You may also notice that it’s become harder and harder to grip and lift things — and that it’s painful when you try it.
In many cases, the nodule on your finger or thumb’s base will actually be visible. If you can’t see the nodule, you should still look out for pain where your fingers connect to your hand.
The biggest sign, of course, is an inability to either straighten or bend your finger.
Diagnosing Trigger Finger
Because many of the symptoms of trigger finger are fairly obvious to both doctor and patient, you shouldn’t have to undergo complicated testing.
Instead, your medical professional will talk to you about any health conditions you’ve been previously diagnosed with. You’ll also have the chance to discuss your symptoms and your lifestyle.
They’ll also rule out other potential conditions.
Your doctor will ask you how long the pain has lasted, what makes it better or worse, and many other questions.
Then, the doctor will perform a physical examination of the hand. You’ll need to make a fist, rate your levels of pain, and show your doctor how your finger or thumb locks into place.
Your doctor will also attempt to locate the nodule at the base of your fingers and in the palm.
The diagnosis usually happens in a singular appointment, which means that it’s time to start talking about possible trigger finger treatment options.
Trigger Finger Treatment
If you’ve been diagnosed with trigger finger or trigger thumb, we understand that knowing what to expect out of treatment and recovery can feel frightening.
The good news is that you have lots of options when it comes to effective treatment.
Together, you and your doctor will decide, depending on your comfort level and the severity of your case, which treatment is the right fit for your needs.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the most common trigger finger treatment options.
Resting the Hand
Sometimes, the simplest treatment option is just to stop excessive and repetitive movements of the finger.
You should focus simply on resting the finger. Now is the time to stop gripping, lifting, and looking for other ways to go about your life or even do your job (for example, using voice-to-text options instead of typing.)
In fact, about 52% of patients who have trigger finger say that the issue goes away on its own — as long as they’re able to rest it from time to time.
Still, simply resting the finger doesn’t work for everyone — especially for those who have been dealing with trigger finger for a longer period of time.
Wearing a Splint
Especially in combination with other treatment options, your doctor may have you wear a splint on the finger at night.
This will help you to keep the thumb or the finger in a straight position, preventing it from locking in the middle of the night. This also relieves pressure on the tendon.
In most cases, you should expect to wear the splint nightly for about six weeks.
Doing Hand/Finger Exercises
Doing finger and hand exercises for trigger finger can help in the same way that certain exercises can relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel.
Usually, these exercises will be based primarily around stretching the finger and increasing its mobility levels/overall range of motion.
This post offers some great guidance on the kinds of exercises you’ll likely need to try.
Taking Certain Medications
Especially because, for many, trigger finger is particularly painful, your doctor may also have you take certain medications to manage the pain.
You may need to take acetaminophen, certain NSAIDs, and more.
Always speak to your doctor about any other medications you’re currently taking. This will help you to avoid a potentially dangerous medication interaction.
Remember that these medications won’t “cure” your trigger finger. Instead, they’ll simply help you to deal with the pain while undergoing your specific treatment.
If you’ve tried other treatments for your trigger finger without luck, or if your case is especially severe, you may need to consider steroid injections.
A medical professional will inject cortisone (sometimes called corticosteroid) into the tendon sheath of the trigger finger.
Cortisol contains anti-inflammatory properties, which will help to bring down the swelling and restore proper movement to the area. In some cases, you may see results from steroid injections in as little as 24 hours.
Sometimes, it takes you about a week to see results and to get relief. Usually, the results of a steroid injection will last for about one year.
If you still aren’t seeing the results you need, your doctor may then ope to give you a second injection. However, if after that second injection, there still hasn’t been a change?
You’re likely a good candidate when it comes to having surgery for trigger finger.
Keep in mind that, if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, then steroid injections may not be a possible treatment option for you.
This is because they may cause a brief rise in your blood sugar levels.
This means that, if you are diabetic and opt for a steroid injection, you’ll need to keep a careful watch on your glucose levels in the weeks following the injection. In many cases, they just aren’t effective enough for people with diabetes.
Trigger Finger Surgery
You may also opt to have surgery to help stop trigger finger.
The surgery has a high success rate, and you’ll be able to choose from either an open procedure or an endoscopic surgical option.
Usually, open surgeries only take about ten minutes, and you can choose to be completely sedated or to get local anesthesia. The tissues and skin will be moved to expose the pulley responsible for blocking the flexor tendon.
Then, the surgeon releases that pulley and stitches everything back up.
If you prefer a less invasive option, you may go with an endoscopic trigger finger release.
The doctor makes smaller incisions and uses a video camera to help them see what’s going on inside the finger. It still takes only about ten minutes, and you won’t need any kind of stitches afterward.
You need to ensure that you’re working only with the best surgeons, no matter which option you choose.
Recovering From Trigger Finger Surgery
If you’ve needed trigger thumb surgery or trigger finger surgery, we know you’re curious about what to expect from the recovery process.
You’ll likely need to take a few pain relief medications, as you’ll experience soreness and pain for a few days after surgery.
The good news?
You’ll be able to move your finger or thumb freely after surgery. You’ll need to be careful at first, and go slowly to avoid any damage. However, you’ll have your full range of motion back in your finger or thumb within 1-2 weeks of your surgery date.
You’ll need to ensure that you keep the wound clean and dressed. You should clean your wound only with mild soap and water. If you’ve needed stitches, you’ll likely be able to get them removed about 3 weeks after the surgery.
You’ll need to speak with your doctor about the specific level of activity that’s safe for you to resume, and when you can get back to your normal routine.
Are You Ready to Get Help for Your Trigger Finger?
If you suspect you have trigger finger, then you don’t deserve anything less than the best possible care.
We’re here to make sure that’s exactly what you get.
Our expert team of hand surgeons and doctors will guide you through your options, and provide the top endoscopic trigger finger release treatments and other surgical procedures.
Many of our surgeons have over ten years of experience with treating trigger finger.
In addition to helping you treat trigger finger, we can also assist with arthritis, sports injuries, wrist fractures, tendinitis, and much more.
Reach out to us to start your healing today.