What Does It Mean to have Trigger Finger?

It sounds like something right out of an old west movie, but trigger finger is a real condition, one that is becoming more prevalent in this technological age. This is an ergonomic injury, like carpal tunnel syndrome, but it affects the finger instead of the wrist. Learn more about trigger finger and what treatment options a hand specialist can offer.

What is Trigger Finger?

Stenosing tenosynovitis, or trigger finger, is a repetitive use injury that sends many hobbyists to the hand doctor. When the space within the sheath around a finger tendon becomes inflamed, the affected finger locks up. This leaves you with a finger stuck in the bent position, as if getting ready to pull the trigger. The condition can affect multiple fingers at once.

What are the Symptoms of Trigger Finger?

It starts with your finger feeling stiff in the morning. There may be a popping sensation when you move it. As the problem progresses, the symptoms will become more noticeable.

  • A bump forms at the base of the finger
  • The finger catches when you bend it. It will open again with a little effort.
  • The finger locks in the bent position.

You can have the problem in either hand, but is more common in the fingers you use most often.

What are the Treatment Options for Trigger Finger?

A hand specialist will initially treat trigger finger like any repetitive use injury. Ice or heat help relieve the inflammation. The doctor may give you exercises that will stretch the tendon and improve the finger’s mobility.
Many sufferers curl their fingers as they sleep, aggravating the injury, so in the morning, the finger is stiff and, once again, locked in the bent position.

Immobilizing the finger gives it time to heal, especially at night. A hand specialist will fit you with a splint that you wear at bed time to keep the finger extended.

Surgical Options for Trigger Finger

More serious cases require surgical intervention. A hand surgery doctor may insert a needle into the tendon and break apart the connecting tissue that is causing the constriction. The doctor uses an ultrasound to target only the affected tissue to avoid damaging the tendon or nerves.

A more invasive approach requires the hand surgeon to open up the base of the finger and cut away the constricted material. This procedure is usually done in a hospital by a qualified hand specialist.

Trigger finger is one of those problems that can happen to anyone, but musicians, farmers, industrial workers and gamers tend to be at risk – anyone whose work or play relies on finger dexterity. If you are waking up with one or more fingers feeling stiff and sore, see a hand doctor to determine if you might have trigger finger.