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Diagnosing and Treating Trigger Finger

by Princeton Orthopaedic Associates

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Diagnosing and Treating Trigger Finger

by Princeton Orthopaedic Associates

Are you dealing with uncomfortable or painful joint pain in your fingers? If so, you may be experiencing trigger finger, which is caused by inflammation and narrowing in the tendons around your finger joints. Fortunately, this condition can usually be treated effectively with some modifications to lifestyle habits as well as medical treatment. In this guide, we'll take a closer look at diagnosing and treating trigger finger to help you get back to living life without persistent joint pain.

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What Is Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition that affects the tendons in the fingers and thumb. It occurs when one of the tendons in the finger or thumb becomes inflamed and thickened. This makes it difficult for the tendon to move smoothly through its normal range of motion and can cause your finger or thumb to get stuck in a bent position. It may also cause a popping or clicking sound as you move your finger or thumb.

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Common causes of trigger finger are repetitive activities such as typing or gripping tools with your hands for extended periods of time. If you think you may have symptoms of trigger finger, talk with your doctor right away so they can diagnose it accurately and provide appropriate treatment options. With proper care, most people with trigger finger can manage their symptoms and resume their normal activities without long-term issues.

Common Causes of Trigger Finger

The inflammation and thickening of the tissue that surrounds the tendons in the finger that causes trigger finger can make it hard for the tendon to move through its normal path and cause a sensation of “catching” or “locking” in the affected joint. Symptoms of trigger finger include pain in the affected area, difficulty straightening or bending the affected digit, and tenderness. If left untreated, trigger finger can lead to a permanent disability of the affected hand.

There are several possible causes of trigger finger, some activity-related and others related to the overall health of your body. Most of the activity-related causes are repetitive activities such as typing on a computer or playing musical instruments. Gripping an object too hard can also be a cause of trigger finger, particularly if the object is a tool that you have to hold and use over and over. If you work, say, in construction, then a hammer is a good example of this.

Other contributing factors have their origin in intrinsic health issues, especially inflammatory conditions. Inflammatory conditions are those occurrences that, obviously, cause inflammation in your body. That sounds ridiculous to explain, but sometimes the reality isn't so obvious. You may know that there are inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus. But did you also know that diabetes, obesity, infections, and even pregnancy also cause inflammation? These conditions may affect your hands or fingers in the joints. You may also get trigger finger as a result of a trauma or an injury to the hand.

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Diagnosing Trigger Finger

Symptoms of trigger finger can vary from person to person depending on what’s causing it, but typically include pain at the base of your affected fingers/thumb; stiffness when moving your finger/thumb; popping/clicking sounds when moving your fingers/thumb; and locking of your affected fingers/thumb into a bent position that can only be released with help from another person (known as triggering). Noticing your symptoms is the first step in diagnosis and treatment. The next step is to see a specialist who can help treat it.

Diagnosis usually involves a physical examination by a doctor or orthopedic specialist who will look at range of motion of your finger joints, examine your hands for redness and swelling, and listen to you tell your story about how this condition developed. In some cases an x-ray may be ordered to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms such as arthritis. Further tests such as an ultrasound may also be recommended to get a better look at soft tissues like joints and ligaments. Treatment options include conservative measures such as splints, cortisone injections, and physiotherapy; however, if these treatments do not work then surgery is considered to release the tendon from its sheath to restore mobility and reduce pain. The recovery period for this type of surgery is usually around six weeks with full recovery possible within twelve weeks.

Treating Trigger Finger

In order to treat trigger finger, there are both lifestyle modifications and medical treatments available. Lifestyle modifications are the first step in treating trigger finger. Medical treatment includes corticosteroid injections into the affected area of the hand, splinting and bracing of your affected fingers during treatment, oral medications to reduce inflammation and pain relief from topical creams/ointments or over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen. Surgery may also be required if other treatments fail to alleviate symptoms after several months of non-surgical management.

Treatment for trigger finger may involve lifestyle changes such as avoiding activities that cause strain on your hands, using braces or splints for support, taking medications to reduce inflammation, getting regular exercise for better joint flexibility, and stretching exercises specifically designed for hands. In some cases where symptoms are severe and don’t respond to nonsurgical treatments, surgery may be recommended to release the tight tendon sheath so that it can move more freely. Recovery time after surgery may take anywhere from six weeks to three months depending on how quickly you heal.

It is important to note that it is essential to seek medical advice if symptoms persist after trying lifestyle modifications as trigger finger can worsen over time if left untreated. Your doctor will conduct an examination and be able to determine the best course of treatment based on the severity of your condition. There are various treatments available for trigger finger depending on their severity; these range from avoiding activities that put stress on your hand to steroid injections or even surgery if necessary. One way to prevent developing a trigger finger is by regularly taking breaks from gripping tools or other such activities so your hands have a chance to rest.

Coping with and Managing Trigger Finger

Trigger Finger is an often painful condition that can affect the mobility of the fingers and thumb. It occurs when one of the finger's tendons becomes inflamed, causing it to catch or lock when straightened. People with trigger finger may experience catching sensations as they try to move their finger, pain in the palm of their hand near the base of their finger, swelling at the base of their finger, difficulty moving their fingers or a popping sensation when trying to straighten out a bent finger. This condition can interfere with normal activities like grasping objects or making a fist.

Fortunately, there are a few strategies for coping with and managing Trigger Finger. Strengthening exercises are among the most effective methods for reducing symptoms; these exercises involve squeezing small objects like putty or stress balls to increase tendon strength and flexibility. Avoiding forceful gripping activities such as using tools or playing stringed instruments can help reduce inflammation and discomfort. Wearing a splint at night that keeps your fingers in a slightly flexed position can prevent further irritation and allow for greater mobility during the day. Additionally, rest and ice are crucial components in managing this condition; resting your hands throughout the day and applying ice packs after strenuous activity can reduce swelling and pain associated with Trigger Finger.

If you have been diagnosed with Trigger Finger, it is important to speak to your doctor about treatment options that are right for you. In some cases, steroid injections may be used to reduce inflammation around the affected tendon sheath; however, this type of treatment should only be done under medical supervision due to potential side effects such as infection or nerve damage. Surgery is an option for more severe cases but should only be done if other treatments fail to produce results.

Although living with Trigger Finger can be difficult at times, having knowledge about possible treatments can help make living with this condition much easier!

If you experience any of the symptoms discussed in this article, make sure to connect with us here at Princeton Orthopaedic Associates to set up a consultation with one of our specialists. Trigger finger is a common condition that can be painful and impede functionality if left untreated. Although there are some medical treatments available, often times making simple lifestyle changes is enough to provide relief. With proper care, trigger finger can be managed so that it does not interfere with your quality of life. We can help you with all of that.

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