What is trigger finger?
Trigger finger is a "snapping" or "locking" condition of any of the digits of the hand when opening or closing. Stenosing tenosynovitis is the medical term for trigger finger.
What causes trigger finger?
Local swelling from inflammation or scarring of the tendon sheath (tenosynovium) around the flexor tendons causes trigger finger. These tendons normally pull the affected digit inward toward the palm (flexion). When they are inflamed, they tend to catch where they normally slide through the tendon sheath.
What are risk factors for trigger finger?
Usually, trigger finger occurs as an isolated condition because of repetitive trauma. Activities such as gardening, pruning, and clipping, etc., are risk factors for trigger finger. Sometimes, trigger finger is an associated condition resulting from an underlying illness or medical condition that causes inflammation of tissues of the hand, such as rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, data presented at the 2005 American College of Rheumatology national meeting suggested that a majority of patients with rheumatoid arthritis have inflammation around the tendons of the palm of the hand that could develop into trigger finger. Trigger finger most often affects the right or left index finger, the digits likely to pull the trigger on a gun.
Trigger Finger Treatment
Cortisone injections can be used to treat the inflammation of small areas of the body (local injections), or they can be used to treat inflammation that is widespread throughout the body (systemic injections). Examples of conditions for which local cortisone injections are used include inflammation of a bursa (bursitis of the hip, knee, elbow, or shoulder), a tendon (tendinitis such as tennis elbow), and a joint (arthritis). Knee osteoarthritis, hip bursitis, painful foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis, rotator cuff tendinitis, frozen shoulder, and many other conditions may be treated with cortisone injections. Certain skin disorders, such as alopecia (a specific type of hair loss), can be treated with cortisone injections.
What are the signs and symptoms of trigger finger?
Symptoms and signs of trigger finger may occur when any of the four fingers of the hand attempts to flex closed while gripping. Instead of a smooth, continual closure, the digit hesitates, then snaps closed (causing a "trigger" affect) and is associated with a stiffness sensation of the digit. Symptoms and signs may occur in more than one digit. When attempting to extend the digit, a similar hesitation may occur before it "snaps" into full extension. In severe cases, people must manually bring the digits into full extension or flexion because of the stiffness. The closure is frequently associated with pain at the base of the finger on the palm of the hand. Sometimes it's possible to feel a tender nodule in the area of the inflamed tendon. There may be mild swelling in the affected area of the palm. Triggering can also affect the thumb (trigger thumb, De Quervain syndrome), so many clinicians include the thumb in the diagnosis of trigger finger.
What specialties of doctors diagnose and treat trigger finger?
Primary care doctors, including general practitioners, family medicine physicians, and internists, commonly diagnose trigger finger. Specialists who treat trigger finger include orthopedic surgeons, sports-medicine doctors, plastic surgeons, hand surgeons, and rheumatologists. Occupational therapists and physical therapists can be involved in the care of patients with trigger finger.
How do health care professionals diagnose trigger finger?
Health care professionals diagnose trigger finger based on the history of "snapping" sensation that the patient experiences, as well as noting in the physical examination that there is tenderness and nodular irregularity of the involved flexor tendon in the palm of the hand. Typically, the nodule is not visible but can be felt in the palm. There can be contracture of the affected digit into a bent position.
What are trigger finger treatment options?
Stretching, ice, and anti-inflammation treatments can be helpful. Oral anti-inflammatory medications that may be helpful include naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, Cambia), and others.
The quickest and most effective treatment is a local cortisone injection into the tendon sheath around the affected tendon. Most patients will respond well to the steroid injection (corticosteroid injection such as kenalog, depomedrol, and others). Trigger finger can recur after a period of normal function. When a trigger finger persists after two steroid injections and is not responsive to the above nonsurgical treatments, surgical procedures to release the tendon sheath and/or remove the inflamed or scarred tissue are considered. Trigger finger surgery is usually a permanent cure for this condition.
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Are there home remedies for trigger finger?
Initially, people can treat trigger finger at home with remedies including cold packs, resting, and over-the-counter medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Massaging the involved area of the palm gently followed by cold pack application can be helpful. Take care to avoid reinjuring the strained tendon in the palm.
What is the prognosis of trigger finger?
The prognosis of trigger finger is excellent. Nearly all patients recover completely after medical professionals administer cortisone injections and the tendon again glides freely through the tendon sheath. Sometimes it may be necessary to get repeat injections. Surgical treatments may be necessary in rare instances.
Is it possible to prevent trigger finger?
People can prevent trigger finger by avoiding activities that strain the finger flexor tendons in the palms of the hands.
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Medically Reviewed on 1/22/2019
Firestein, Gary S., et al. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, Ninth Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2013.