Trigger finger occurs when your finger stays in a bent position and is not able to fully extend. Patients with trigger finger may be able to straighten their finger with effort, but the finger snaps back into its bent position right after.
Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is caused by inflammation of the sheath that covers the tendon of the finger. This inflammation narrows the space between the sheath and the tendon, forcing the finger into an ongoing bent position.
People who work with their hands are most likely to develop trigger finger. It’s also more common in women and people with diabetes.
There are many treatments for trigger finger that we recommend to our patients here at Tennessee Orthopaedic Clinics. Depending on the severity of symptoms, we may recommend a combination of these treatments.
Trigger finger splints – A trigger finger splint is used to hold the affected finger in a fully extended portion. By keeping the finger in an extended position, this relieves tension in the affected tendon. Trigger finger splints are often used only at night.
Trigger finger exercises – We can teach you how to do several trigger finger exercises that stretch the finger and help you maintain mobility.
Steroid injections – Steroid injections into the joint can calm the inflammation that causes trigger finger, allowing the tendon to move freely again. Steroid injections can be a long-term solution, with results lasting up to a year. This is the most common treatment for trigger finger, with 90% effectiveness for people without diabetes.
Percutaneous release procedure – In a percutaneous release, your doctor numbs your hand, then inserts a needle into the affected finger. The needle is used to break up any tissue that’s blocking the smooth motion of the tendon. The percutaneous release is done in the doctor’s office under local anesthesia.
If you’ve tried the above trigger finger treatments to no avail, your doctor may recommend undergoing trigger finger surgery to correct your issue. Surgery for trigger finger is often recommended for patients who have severe trigger finger symptoms such as disabling hand impairment, pain, or worsening symptoms that make it difficult to grasp things or take care of everyday tasks.
In traditional open surgery for trigger finger, your orthopedic surgeon will numb your hand with a local anesthetic. An incision will be made in the palm to access the tendon of the affected finger. The tendon sheath of the affected finger will be cut to release pressure on the tendon, relieving trigger finger symptoms. Once the sheath is cut, the incision is closed. Trigger finger surgery is done on an outpatient basis without a stay in the hospital.
Recovery from trigger finger surgery is generally well tolerated. You should have full movement of your finger immediately after the numbing medication wears off. You’ll need to wear a bandage on your finger for a few days, and you’ll likely experience pain and stiffness for several days. Your doctor will recommend any pain relievers that can help.