Having one of your fingers, or even your thumb, stuck in a bent position can make something like holding a coffee cup or typing on the computer more difficult than it needs to be.
Your stuck finger, known as a trigger finger, may be the result of repetitive or forceful use of your fingers or an underlying medical condition. Whatever the cause, many treatment options can help you regain use of your finger or thumb.
At Orthopedic & Wellness in Frederick, Waldorf, and Germantown, Maryland, our highly skilled physicians, Dr. Ojedapo Ojeyemi and Dr. Matthew Roh, specialize in treating hand conditions like trigger finger. Here, we explain how trigger finger arises and what you can do about it.
If your fingers or thumb catch or lock when you bend or straighten them, you may have a trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis. It most often affects the ring finger and thumb — trigger thumb — but the condition can affect any one of your fingers.
With a trigger finger, you may feel pain when you bend or straighten your finger or thumb, and you might hear or feel a popping sensation. You may also notice swelling or a lump at the base of the finger or thumb on the palm side of your hand.
The affected thumb or finger may be especially stiff and difficult to move when you first wake up in the morning. In the most severe cases, the finger or thumb gets stuck in a bent position.
Your fingers have the ability to grip with precision and power. These functions are how you can turn the key in a locked door and then grip the handle to open it. Flexor tendons are responsible for this type of finger movement.
Flexor tendons are long cords that attach your forearm muscle to the bones in your fingers. Each of these tendons is covered in a protective sheath that supports the gliding motion of the tendon. Bands of tissue known as pulleys along the protective sheath help hold the flexor tendon close to the finger bone.
In most cases, trigger finger develops because of irritation or inflammation of this pulley, which then irritates the flexor tendon, creating a nodule. When you bend or flex your finger, this nodule passes through the pulley, causing the popping sensation and the pain.
The exact cause of trigger finger is still under investigation. However, people who have jobs or hobbies that involve repetitive forceful gripping or movement of the fingers are at greater risk of developing this painful hand condition. This includes farmers and musicians.
Trigger finger is more common in people with diabetes and arthritis. It also may develop as a complication following surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.
What do you do if you have trigger finger? That depends on the severity of your symptoms. For mild cases, we may recommend modifying the activity that’s behind your trigger finger and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
If you have moderate bending, we may recommend splinting the affected finger or thumb while you sleep to keep it straight and suggest gentle stretching exercises to improve your range of motion. Steroid injections into the tendon may also help reduce inflammation and pain.
If nonsurgical treatments fail to improve your trigger finger and the pain and lack of movement interfere with your daily routine, we may suggest surgery. An orthopedic surgeon can perform a percutaneous release using a needle to loosen the trapped tendon or trigger finger release surgery, which involves cutting through the sheath to increase room for the tendon.
How you got trigger finger doesn’t determine what you can do about it. We can help you get the treatment you need. Call the Orthopedic & Wellness location convenient to you, or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment with our skilled physicians today.