Trigger finger occurs when inflammation prevents the tendon from making smooth movements and the finger becomes locked in position.

Trigger Finger

Orthopaedics Infoline

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What is trigger finger?

Trigger finger is an irritation of the tendons which causes your finger to get stuck in a bent trigger-like position. The tendons are responsible for helping your muscles to move. To do this, they slide easily through a narrow tunnel of tissue known as a tendon sheath. If a tendon becomes inflamed or swollen, this pathway narrows, and smooth movement becomes increasingly difficult to achieve without causing painful symptoms. The friction can also cause tendon nodules to form – which makes movement even harder. It eventually results in the finger getting stuck in position and sometimes unable to fully straighten. Symptoms of trigger finger include:

  • Snapping or popping sound with finger movement
  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling in the palm
  • Locked finger unable to straighten

How is it treated?

In mild cases, simply resting the finger and using a finger splint or buddy tape can usually settle down the symptoms. Pain relief medication, heat and ice are also helpful along with gentle finger stretches to help improve the range of motion. If symptoms persist, your doctor may suggest a steroid injection to help with the swelling. If the affected finger does not respond to treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery to relieve the symptoms and restore movement. Trigger finger surgery, sometimes known as trigger finger release, makes a small cut in the tendon sheath to allow the tendons more room to move. The tendon sheath then heals more loosely which means the tendon movement is no longer restricted.

How long does it last?

In some cases trigger finger resolves by itself, but in more severe cases the symptoms do typically return and the finger becomes locked in position once more. If symptoms continue to recur and impact your daily activities, surgery may be recommended. Trigger finger release surgery is a successful procedure with a relatively quick recovery period. Normal activities can usually resume after a few weeks, but there may be some swelling and stiffness for up to 6 months.

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