Trigger Finger

Trigger finger (digital tendinitis and stenosing tenosynovitis) is a common disorder that causes an often painful catching of the fingers or thumb. It occurs as a clicking, snapping, or locking of a finger in the palm of the hand. This is caused by a problem with the tendons that flex or bend the fingers sliding smoothly through their sheaths. The condition may occur in any finger or a couple fingers at the same time.

The finger may lock with the finger curled or suddenly straighten out with a snap. This is more common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Left untreated, the condition may get worse to the point where the finger becomes locked in flexion, like making a fist, or less commonly locked with the finger straightened out.

CAUSES

  • Inflammation and scarring that lead to swelling around the tendon sheath.

  • Repeated or forceful movements.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affects joints.

  • Gout.

  • Diabetes mellitus.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

  • Soreness and swelling of your finger.

  • A painful clicking or snapping as you bend and straighten your finger.

DIAGNOSIS

Your health care provider will do a physical exam of your finger to diagnose trigger finger.

TREATMENT

  • Splinting for 6–8 weeks may be helpful.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) can help to relieve the pain and inflammation.

  • Cortisone injections, along with splinting, may speed up recovery. Several injections may be required. Cortisone may give relief after one injection.

  • Surgery is another treatment that may be used if conservative treatments do not work. Surgery can be minor, without incisions (a cut does not have to be made), and can be done with a needle through the skin.

  • Other surgical choices involve an open procedure in which the surgeon opens the hand through a small incision and cuts the pulley so the tendon can again slide smoothly. Your hand will still work fine.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Apply ice to the injured area, twice per day:

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 3–4 times a day.

  • Rest your hand often.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.