When a joint locks in place, it can lead to serious pain and discomfort, particularly when it affects the fingers and hands. In the case of trigger finger, problems with the tendons result in the loss of flexibility of the fingers. Dr. Steven Bailey at The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery, serving the greater Atlanta, GA area, can help address trigger finger through expert care that addresses the underlying causes of the condition and promotes lasting wellness.

What Is Trigger Finger?

Also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, trigger finger is a condition in which the fingers of the thumbs lock and catch when they are bent. This condition can lead to difficulty bending and straightening the fingers, as well as general pain and discomfort. People may notice a snapping sensation as they straighten their fingers, which is a telltale sign of the condition. When trigger finger affects the thumb, the condition is known as trigger thumb.

Trigger finger is often associated with repetitive hand motions, particularly among musicians and industrial workers. The condition is more common in women than men, and typically affects people older than 40.

Symptoms of Trigger Finger

Some of the most common symptoms of trigger finger include:

  • Soreness at the base of the fingers
  • Stiffness of the fingers
  • Popping or clicking sensations when moving the fingers
  • Formation of a bump at the base of a finger
  • Locking of the fingers when bent
  • Difficulty straightening the fingers
  • Snapping sensation when straightening fingers

Causes of Trigger Finger

Trigger finger is caused by inflammation and irritation that affects the protective sheath of the tendon in the affected finger. Over time, the irritation leads to scarring and nodules in the sheath that affect the motion of the tendon. As the sheath narrows, the trigger finger gets worse.

Conditions such as diabetes, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis can all contribute to the development of trigger finger.

Trigger Finger Diagnosis

Trigger finger is commonly diagnosed in a physical exam. Patients are asked to open and close their hands as the doctor checks for joint pain or locking of the fingers. The doctor will also note the patient's medical history. X-rays and advanced diagnostics are not necessary for accurate diagnosis.

Treatment of Trigger Finger

The severity of a patient's trigger finger will determine the ideal method of treatment. In many cases, surgery is not necessary. Initial treatments may involve the use of a splint to rest the affected finger, the use of anti-inflammatory medication, and injections of steroids to reduce inflammation.

For severe cases of trigger finger in which a person cannot straighten the fingers, a hand surgeon may first try percutaneous release. Using ultrasound imaging, the hand surgeon uses a sturdy needle to reduce the amount of constriction affecting the tendon. Full hand surgery may also be considered to cut open a constricted tendon sheath.

Recovery after Surgery

Following percutaneous release or hand surgery, it's important that patients get ample rest and avoid putting strain or stress on the operated hand. A splint or cast may be used to help stabilize the finger and ensure proper healing free from complication. Recovery generally takes a few weeks, though some residual swelling and stiffness of the hand and finger may last for up to several months.

Contact The Hand Center at Crawford Plastic Surgery to learn more about trigger finger and the treatment options available.