What Is It and What You Should Do About It
Lets’ talk about painful trigger fingers. I have been seeing a lot of these in my surgical patients but in general as well from friends, family, and strangers. There is no real trend in how often or what time of year I tend to see this diagnosis. I do tend to see a trend when I have patients that wear those prefabricated splints for too long after surgery or from people that have a lot of swelling in their hands that linger.
What is Trigger Finger?
Also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, trigger finger is a condition whereby your thumb or fingers lock when you bend them. It can cause pain, stiffness, and soreness. The condition can affect any finger and in some cases, more than one finger at a time. You can also experience it in both hands.
Trigger finger is essentially like having a knot along your tendon. See you have two tendons to each finger that help pull your fingers into a fist. Then you have these things called pulleys that hold those tendons down in the palm of your hand where your big knuckles bend.
When you develop a knot along that tendon, every time you make a fist, that knot has to pass though that pulley system. When you open your fingers that knot gets stuck and now you have to sort of pop it out to straighten the finger. In the process of opening and closing your fingers, that knot which is “swelling”, gets even more swollen and irritated.
Sometimes it can be the pulley system that gets thick making it hard for the tendon to pass freely. Both reasons can cause pain and is a vicious cycle. Left untreated, painful, and not using the hand will make it worst by causing stiffness in the fingers, weakness, and more pain.
Both reasons can cause pain and it can be a vicious cycle. Left untreated, painful, and not using the hand will make it worse by causing stiffness in the fingers, weakness, and more pain.
Not all trigger fingers are painful though. Sometimes it can be loud, hard, and the finger really gets stuck and the person has to manually use the other hand pull it straight but no pain at all. Funny how it works right? Oh if this happens to thumb, then it is called a trigger thumb.
What Are the Symptoms of Trigger Finger?
You might have a trigger finger if you experience the following symptoms:
- Popping or clicking sound and sensation when you move your finger
- Painful snapping or clicking whenever you bend or straighten your finger
- Stiffness in the finger, particularly in the morning
- Soreness at the base of the affected finger, indicating a nodule
- A locked finger that can’t be straightened
Trigger finger symptoms often start mild. This is why many who experience it don’t initially seek treatment immediately. Unfortunately, it’s common for patients to only get their hands checked when the symptoms have already worsened.
So, if you notice any or all of the symptoms above, it’s best that you see a hand therapist who can recommend the best treatment for your symptoms and condition. After all, you need proper diagnosis to know whether what you’re experiencing is indeed trigger finger.
What Causes Trigger Finger?
Now that you know what it is, everyone asks “why is it happening?” If only it was black and white….It’s not always clear why. It can be due to over use, repetitive use of the hand, or if you hit it on something hard.
I have seen many patients that unfortunately developed it after surgery to the hand or wrist, and using a prefabricated splint that sits a little too high on the distal palmar crease or they have been wearing the splint longer then they need. The palm of their hand looks slightly swollen, the tendons there feel thick, and it’s painful to make a full fist.
Are You Susceptible to Developing Trigger Finger? What Are The Risk Factors?
There are several possible causes behind the development of a trigger finger, but you may be more likely to get it if you are:
- Aged 40 and above
- A woman
- Has diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout
- Someone who performs finger and thumb movements repeatedly, such as a farmer, musician, or industrial worker
- Has had surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome
Trigger Finger Treatment – What Hands on Therapy Can Do for You
The ones I treat are painful trigger fingers. The mild cases that I give advice about are very mild – only asked because they found out I am a CHT. If it’s very mild, like the one my brother has (due to sustained gripping when he plays quadsport polo), I recommend massaging over that area that is painful or sore. Massaging with a block of ice as well in that same area is also helpful to reduce the triggering.
And can you PLEASE stop opening and closing your hand repeatedly to show it off?? It makes it worse!! Steroid injections are a very effective treatment when the pain is moderate to severe. If injections are not an option that you want, therapy can be helpful to find where it is triggering and make a custom blocking orthosis (splint) to help reduce the symptoms.
A consultation with your certified occupational therapist in Miami can help you figure out what you need to do, teach you a home program, and also figure out what can be causing it in the first place so the right modifications can help reduce it from happening again. Sometimes, it is severe enough and surgery is something that you need to discuss with your hand surgeon.
Get the Right Treatment for Trigger Finger From Our Certified Hand Therapist
Hands On Therapy is a leading Miami certified hand therapist, specializing in painful trigger fingers, rehabilitation of shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand injuries resulting from injuries, surgery, or naturally occurring conditions.
Our therapists can help you stay active and be pain free without getting injections, taking pills, and undergoing surgery.
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We also encourage you to schedule a Free “Discovery” Session so we can talk about your condition and symptoms, and for you to get a feel of what it’s like to be treated by Hands on Therapy Services therapists. We hope to see you soon!
Disclaimer: As with all our pages, this is NOT a substitute for formal medical treatment or occupational therapy. It is intended to inform only. Hands on Therapy Services disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.