Trigger Finger

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What is trigger finger?

Finger movement is achieved by a complex system of tendons and pulleys. The tendons connect muscles of the forearm to the fingers, while pulleys keep the tendons properly aligned and in place. This allows muscles and tendons to achieve a great deal of strength and control when flexing the fingers.

A trigger finger develops when either the pulleys thicken and tighten, or when the tendon becomes inflamed and enlarged. This larger tendon has a difficult time passing through the narrow pulley and may catch as it passes through. Trigger finger can be caused by gout, trauma, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. However, in many cases a specific cause cannot be identified. It can occur at any time of life.

Why does trigger finger happen?

Although we don’t know exactly what causes finger trigger, we do know that people who use multiple repetitive movements in their daily line of work – farmers, industrial workers, and musicians – more often experience trigger finger.

What are common symptoms?

Patients with trigger finger may notice a discomfort and tenderness at the base of the fingers or thumb. Over time the finger may begin to catch and snap when it is flexed and a bump may develop at the base of the affected finger. This may worsen and in time become painful. Eventually the finger will become locked in a flexed position.

How did my specialist diagnose it?

A diagnosis is typically made by a physical exam and assessing your symptoms.

What are my treatment options?

Your custom treatment plan may include:

  • Limiting repetitive activities
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Splint to restrict movement
  • Physical therapy
  • Cortisone injections to reduce swelling
  • Surgery

What can I expect the results to be after treatment?

Your results will depend on your response to medication and how well you avoid repetitive activities that aggravate the symptoms. The goal of treatment is to eliminate the locking and to return you to full movement without discomfort. Steroid injections will often relieve your symptoms altogether.

How long until I’m better?

Non-surgical forms of treatment will often totally relieve your symptoms. If surgery is needed, active movement of your finger will generally be encouraged immediately after surgery. Hand therapy may be prescribed after surgery to enable you to regain full finger movement. Your Summit hand surgeon will develop a customized treatment plan so you will know what to expect with your specific situation.

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