As the name rightly suggests, trigger finger is a condition that affects the fingers. Usually, this condition occurs when the affected person tries to close his fist and grip something, or while opening the fist. In normal cases, the fingers close and open smoothly, but in those with trigger finger, such movements happen with a clicking sound and pain. In severe cases, the fingers can get locked in that bent position. The index and ring finger and the thumb, are often found to get affected with this condition. It may develop in one or more fingers in one hand. In some cases, fingers of both hands may get affected.
Tendons connect the bones to the muscles. Fingers too have tendons, that connect the muscles in the forearms to the bones in the finger. It is with the help of these tendons that the fingers move. These tendons are surrounded by a fluid-filled sheath, called tenosynovium. The tenosynovium releases a lubricating fluid which facilitates smooth movements of tendons within the overlying tendon sheath, during movements of the finger.
Trigger finger (also known as stenosing tenosynovitis) occurs when the tendon gets irritated, inflamed, or scarred. This may result in thickening of the tendon, which may also develop nodules. This condition causes irritation of the tendon sheath and the tenosynovium too. However, a swollen tendon moves within the tendon sheath with much difficulty, causing a snapping or locked condition of the fingers. It is also contended that an inflammation of the tenosynovium causes narrowing of the tube-like tendon sheath, which affects the movement of fingers.
Trigger finger has various causes, like repetitive use or overuse of the fingers; and inflammatory diseases like, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or diabetes. It has also been observed that people affected by hypothyroidism, amyloidosis, and infections, such as tuberculosis, are prone to this condition. Studies show that trigger finger symptoms are mostly seen in women, especially those in the age group of 40 to 60.
So, trigger finger symptoms include snapping or locking of the affected finger, accompanied with pain. However, during the initial stages, the person may experience soreness at the base of the finger. In some cases, the finger remains in the locked position for a long time, and has to be straightened gently, using the other hand. The finger may not get straightened even after repeated efforts, if the condition is severe. Other symptoms are discomfort and tenderness, which may worsen with finger movements; and stiffness of the finger. The affected person may also develop swelling or lumps near the finger joints.
The treatment for trigger finger symptoms is based on the duration and severity of the condition. In mild cases, where the symptoms are not frequent or severe, the treatment can be as simple as rest, massage, and finger exercises. Some of the affected people may have to wear a splint for at least six weeks, so that the finger joints get rest and resumes normal functioning.
The patient may also be advised to refrain from strenuous jobs, involving the affected finger. Severe cases are treated with NSAIDs and steroids, or through percutaneous trigger finger release (a simple procedure, wherein the locked finger is released with a needle inserted to the area under local anesthesia). Some severe cases may need surgery, if all other treatment options fail to release the tendon or alleviate the condition.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.