Understanding Trigger Finger

The term “trigger finger” can be a bit misleading, as it has nothing to do with using firearms. Instead, this tendon problem, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, describes a finger stuck in a bent position, as if pulling a trigger.

At Orthopedic Associates of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers, Dr. Edward R. Dupay, Jr., brings both conservative and minimally invasive techniques to treating musculoskeletal conditions like trigger finger. He shared these insights into this painful hand problem and how to find relief.

Trigger finger basics

Your hands are capable of complex movements and dexterity, thanks to ligaments, muscles, tendons, and tendon sheaths. 

Joints form wherever at least two bones come together, and ligaments hold them securely in place. Muscle contractions allow bones to move, but your tendons attach your muscles to the bone, which makes the movement possible. Think of your tendons as a pulley connecting your bones to your muscles.

The problem with trigger finger lies in your tendon sheaths. Each of your tendons has a thin, protective layer that produces synovial fluid. This substance moisturizes and lubricates the area so the tendon can slide smoothly through the sheath, preventing damage and abrasion during movement.

When you have trigger finger, your tendon sheath becomes inflamed, reducing the space surrounding your tendon and limiting movement. The more resistance your tendon sustains moving through the sheath, the more irritation and swelling occurs, leading to trigger finger symptoms.

Symptoms of trigger finger

You can develop trigger finger in any finger, including the thumb. It can also impact more than one finger at a time and both hands.

In most cases, the first symptoms of trigger finger typically involve pain and thickening at the base of the affected digit. As your condition worsens, it’s common to develop a snapping or catching sensation when bending and straightening your finger. 

Additional signs of trigger finger include:

Trigger finger symptoms can vary from mild to severe. However, they’re usually worse in the morning and while holding objects or straightening the finger. 

Anyone can develop trigger finger, but it’s more common in women, those who have hobbies and occupations with repetitive hand use, and people with health conditions like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. It also occurs more frequently in people over 40.

Finding relief for trigger finger

Dr. Dupay can often diagnose trigger finger during a physical exam. Whenever possible, he offers conservative therapies to address the problem, like medications, splinting, stretching exercises, and rest. 

However, if you have severe symptoms or conservative treatments don’t provide relief, Dr. Dupay could suggest more advanced approaches, such as:

Undergoing surgery for trigger finger provides immediate relief, and you can typically start doing gentle range of motion exercises within days. Recovering from your procedure usually takes approximately a month or so.

If you have trigger finger symptoms, don’t wait to schedule an appointment. Contact our Orthopedic Associates of Southwest Florida office by calling 239-768-2272, or request an appointment online today.

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