Trigger finger syndrome, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition in which the fingers or thumbs of the hand become stiff and difficult to move.
It is caused by swelling or irritation of the tendons, which connect the muscles to the bones in your fingers and thumbs.
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What Is Trigger Finger Syndrome?
Trigger finger syndrome (also known as “stenosing tenosynovitis”) is caused by inflammation of the tendon sheath in the hand—the tissue that connects muscles to bones.
When these sheaths become swollen or irritated, they can cause the affected finger (or thumb) to lock up with a snapping sensation. A trigger finger can occur in one or more fingers. The ring finger is often one of the fingers affected.
When it affects your thumb, it’s called a trigger thumb. The pain associated with trigger finger syndrome can range from mild to severe and usually worsens over time if not treated properly.
Developing trigger finger syndrome can be linked to specific activities or underlying medical conditions. Activities that involve repetitive motions, such as typing and working on a computer, can increase your risk of developing trigger finger syndrome.
What Causes Trigger Finger Syndrome?
The exact cause of trigger finger syndrome is unknown, but it is thought that it may be due to overuse or injury of the tendons in the hand.
Repetitive motion activities such as typing on a computer or playing an instrument can cause the tendons in the hands to become swollen and inflamed.
It is also common in people who have conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, which can damage tendons in the hand as well.
Trigger finger symptoms range from mild to severe and consist:
- Stiff fingers, especially in the morning
- As the finger moves, there is a popping or clicking sound
- At the base of the affected finger, there may be tenderness or a lump in the palm
- A finger catching or locking bent position and then snapping straight
- Bent finger stuck in place
- A trigger finger can affect any finger, including the thumb. More than one finger may be affected at a time, and both hands might be involved. Triggering is usually worse in the morning.
Fortunately, trigger finger syndrome can usually be treated without surgery. Treatment options include:
To thoroughly and painlessly move the finger or thumb, treatment for trigger fingers aims to minimize or eliminate edema and catching/locking.
When the issue is identified and treated as soon as possible, it is easier to return the finger to what the patient perceives as usual or 100%.
- One of the most effective treatments is rest—taking a break from activities that may be causing or exacerbating your symptoms can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
- Applying ice to the affected area can also help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- Other non-surgical treatments include stretching exercises for the affected area.
- Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium
- Wearing a splint while sleeping to keep your fingers straightened out
- Receiving a steroid injection into the tendon sheath surrounding your finger joint.
These injections are typically done under ultrasound guidance, ensuring accuracy when administering the medication into the inflamed tissue surrounding your joint.
Surgery may be advised if non-surgical therapy is ineffective at symptom relief. The pulley at the finger’s base will be opened during surgery to allow the tendon to glide more freely.
Your doctor might recommend trigger finger surgery if you have severe symptoms or other therapies don’t work. The two are as follows:
Percutaneous Release- The doctor numbs your hand’s palm before a needle is inserted near the injured tendon. They manipulate the needle and your finger to loosen the tendon and ensure flawless operation.
This typically takes place in a doctor’s office. To locate the needlepoint, they could use ultrasonography. They won’t harm your tendon or any adjacent nerves if you do this.
Tenolysis or trigger finger release surgery- The doctor opens the tendon’s sheath after making a tiny cut at the finger’s base. The silvery tendon is revealed, and the sheath can be opened to allow the tendon to glide more freely.
This procedure may require a hospital stay or be done as an outpatient.
The success rate of surgery is high, and most people experience complete relief from symptoms. After surgery, the doctor will suggest activities to help restore finger function and mobility.
In some cases, a physical therapist may be necessary to assist in recovery.
Your condition will determine how long it takes for you to recover. Recovery is also impacted by the treatment plan chosen. For instance, you might have to use a splint for 6 weeks.
However, most trigger finger sufferers recover within a few weeks by resting the finger and taking anti-inflammatory medications.
Soon after surgery, you should be able to move your finger. Swelling and pain can be reduced by placing your hand above your heart.
Although complete healing could take a few weeks, edema and stiffness could last up to 6 months.
Complications of Trigger Finger Syndrome Surgery
- Pain and swelling at the site of surgery
- Damage to the nerve that controls the finger
- Stiffness of the finger after surgery
- Problems with healing or scarring
- Risk of infection
Trigger finger syndrome is a common condition that affects the tendons in your hands, causing them to lock up with a snapping sensation when moved. It can be treated with non-surgical options such as rest, ice, stretching exercises, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.
Surgery may be necessary in some cases. However, it risks complications, including pain, swelling, nerve damage, and infection. Recovery time varies depending on the treatment chosen, but most people can move their fingers soon after surgery.
It’s important to talk to your doctor if you think you may have trigger finger syndrome so that they can recommend the proper treatment for your case. With the right care and attention, most people can recover from this condition entirely.