What is Trigger Finger?

Trigger Finger is a painful condition usually affecting the thumb or index finger. You may notice that when you start to bend your finger or thumb the movement might not be smooth, and the finger might get stuck in the bent position. This is because the tendon that connects the muscles to the fingers or thumb to the bone may have become inflamed and thickened, causing the tendon to move with difficulty through the sheath of synovial membrane, which holds the tendon in place. This inflammation of a tendon is called tendinitis.

The synovial sheath is a membrane similar to the synovial lining of your knee joint. It may also become inflamed resulting in swelling, thickening and narrowing of this channel through which the tendon passes. A narrowing in medicine is called stenosis, so the combined name for the condition is “stenosing tenosynovitis,” or inflammation of the tendon and synovial sheath.

When the tendon finally pops through the band of membrane holding it in place, your finger may straighten suddenly, with or without snapping or popping sounds, which is the basis of the common name for this condition, “trigger finger.”

Causes of Trigger Finger

The causes of trigger finger have not been clearly identified, but it appears to be common in older people and is more common in women than in men. It is often seen in people who perform repeated movements of the fingers, such as musicians and people who grip tools for long periods of time. Trigger finger is more prevalent in people with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. This painful condition is diagnosed by a careful examination of your hand by a physician. X-rays are not helpful.

A progression from the simplest treatment to surgery is the most cautious approach to treating the condition. Ice, stretching exercises or use of a finger splint to immobilize the finger might be helpful. The doctor might prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen or select a stronger anti-inflammatory agent such as Prednisone. Corticosteroids can be taken orally or may be injected directly into the affected finger. If these steps do not work, then surgery to cut open the synovial sheath is the next step. This will release the tendon so that it can slide smoothly. These measures should provide relief from this painful condition.