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Trigger Finger

  • What is trigger finger?

    Trigger finger

    Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is pain or stiffness when straightening or bending the finger. The tendon lining is like a tunnel in which the tendons glide to bring about motion. Swelling of the tendon lining lessens the gliding motion of the tendons, causing finger joint pain or a 'catching' feeling when you try to flex your finger. This condition may also cause the finger to become locked or stuck in a bent position.

    Also called trigger thumb, trigger finger usually affects people who perform repetitive gripping movements in their line of work or hobby. Women and people with diabetes have higher risks of developing this condition. Depending on the severity of the condition, trigger finger treatment may include medications, therapy, and surgical procedures.

  • Tendons are a strong band of fibrous connective tissues that link the muscle to the bone. These tendons are protected by another layer of connective tissues called the tendon sheaths. When the tendon sheaths on the finger are inflamed, the normal gliding motion of the tendon through the tendon sheath is disrupted. When the tendon sheath is irritated or inflamed for a long period, the tendons can be scarred, thickened and may develop bumps or nodules. This can interfere with the tendons' movement, which can lead to stiffness and pain in the finger, a condition known as trigger finger.

    While the causes of trigger finger are not always clear, they may include rheumatoid arthritis, gout and diabetes. Injury to the palm or base of the finger may also cause trigger finger.

    Risk factors for trigger finger

    Factors that put you at risk of developing trigger finger include:

    • Occupation and hobbies – People whose occupation or hobby requires them to regularly execute repetitive and prolonged hand gripping have a higher risk of developing trigger finger.
    • Sex – Trigger finger is a condition more common in women. Though it is only a theory, it is said that hormone changes in women play a role in the development of trigger finger. Changes in oestrogen levels have something to do with increased swelling in tendons and joints. This makes trigger finger more likely for women.
    • Pre-existing health conditions – People with rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes are at risk of developing trigger finger. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing trigger finger as it is said that chronically elevated blood glucose levels can make the connective tissues glycated. This causes damage that can lead to a trigger finger.
  • The symptoms of trigger finger include:

    • A nodule (swollen lump) at the base of the finger
    • Finger joint pain
    • Tightness at the base of the finger or stiff fingers
    • Triggering or locking when opening or closing the fingers – when the finger begins to trigger or lock (stuck in a bent position), there may be pain felt in the middle of the finger or thumb
  • To diagnose your condition, the doctor will ask about your symptoms and conduct a physical exam. You will be asked to open and close your hand. The doctor will also examine your fingers and check for painful parts, lumps and locking.

  • Treatment usually starts with non-surgical options, such as:

    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Reducing the frequency of times that you grip things
    • Steroid injections
    • Wearing a splint

    If the symptoms persist, you may wish to undergo surgery. Trigger finger surgery is a minor procedure with a high success rate, and can be done as day surgery under local anaesthesia. The goal of surgery is for you to regain the normal use of your hand and experience relief from the pain of a trigger finger.

    Consult an orthopaedic surgeon to determine the treatment method most suitable for you. At Parkway East Hospital, our experienced orthopaedic consultants and surgeons are supported by a comprehensive team of nurses and physiotherapists to provide you with the suitable treatment options.

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  • Trigger finger complications are related to surgery as a treatment. While trigger finger surgery is relatively safe, there is still a risk of complications including nerve damage, incomplete extension, and bowstringing.

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