Trigger finger is a common and painful disorder of a finger’s flexor tendon that causes the finger to “catch” or “lock” when bent or released (if the thumb is affected, the condition is called “trigger thumb”). Trigger finger can be caused by repetitive motion of the finger, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and gout. Grasping something for an extended period of time can also result in trigger finger.
The fingers and thumb are able to bend and straighten because of tendons and muscles in the hands and arms. A tendon usually moves smoothly through the sheath (tissue) that covers it. However, when a finger’s flexor tendon becomes inflamed, it may not be able to move smoothly through the sheath so that, when an attempt is made to bend or release the finger, the pulling of the enlarged tendon through the sheath results in the tendon’s catching or locking. The medical term for trigger finger is “stenosing flexor tenosynovitis.”
Symptoms of Trigger Finger
Trigger finger is usually more common in the dominant hand, and in the middle and ring fingers, or the thumb. Symptoms often get progressively worse, and may include:
- Popping or clicking sensation when finger is moved
- Finger stiffness, especially when first waking up
- Nodule or tenderness at the finger’s base
It is also possible that the finger, after catching or locking when bent, will suddenly pop straight. The reverse is also possible: The finger may lock in the bent position and be unable to be straightened.
Treatment of Trigger Finger
Applying ice, stretching and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications are recommended treatments for trigger finger. However, the quickest and most effective treatment is a cortisone injection into the affected tendon’s sheath. If the trigger finger does not go away after two injections, and is not helped by ice, stretching or anti-inflammatories, surgery may be recommended. During surgery for trigger finger, the tendon sheath is released, and/or inflamed or scarred tissue is removed. Surgery usually permanently cures trigger finger.