What is Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger, or stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition in which one more of the fingers becomes stuck in a bent position or becomes stiff. Trigger finger is one of the most common causes of hand pain in adults, affecting up to 1 in every 50 people. It most commonly affects the ring finger, although any finger can be affected. It is not uncommon to have multiple fingers affected. Women are most commonly affected, usually between the ages of 40-70 years old, though both males and females can be affected at any age.
Trigger finger symptoms can vary, but may include:
- A catching or locking sensation upon movement
- Stiffness, typically after inactivity, such as in the morning after sleep
- Pain when bending or straightening the finger
- The presence of a lump in the palm at the base of the affected finger
In severe cases, the finger may be stuck in a bent position with the inability to straighten it.
Causes and Risk Factors
Trigger finger is caused by inflammation or thickening of the A1 pulley. Pulleys are bands of tissue that hold flexor tendons to the finger bones. They create a tunnel for the tendons to travel up the finger. The finger tendons must pass through a tunnel of pulleys in order to bend. The inflammation of the A1 pulley makes it harder for the tendon to pass through it. If the flexor tendon becomes inflamed, a nodule may form that then passes through the pulley when the finger bends. The nodule can contribute to what causes trigger finger pain.
Trigger finger causes are not directly identifiable but a few risk factors may increase the chances of developing the condition.
- Health conditions: Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis may contribute to developing trigger finger.
- An unusual increase in activity in people who are not usually active with their hands. A common trigger finger scenario is someone who goes out in the spring and gardens for many hours after not having done that all winter.
- Gender: Women are more likely to experience trigger finger than men.
- Age: People between the ages of 40 and 70 are most likely to develop trigger finger.
There are no special tests necessary to diagnose the condition. A specialized physical examination of the affected area confirms the presence of the condition.
Trigger finger treatment may involve cortisone injections and/or surgery. Trigger finger release is a small surgical procedure to release the A1 pulley and widen the entrance to the tendon sheath. By widening the space for the tendon, the tendon stops locking and catching, allowing for proper, pain-free movement. If the condition is left untreated, it will usually require surgery and, even with surgery, the affected finger may never regain full motion. Trigger fingers should be evaluated by a hand surgeon within a few weeks of the onset of symptoms.
If you are experiencing popping and clicking while bending and straightening one or more fingers, you may have trigger finger. Contact us to schedule an appointment and learn more about treatment options.