Trigger finger is a common term for a condition known as stenosing tenosynovitis or STS. This condition is characterized by a “snapping” or locking of the fingers or thumb when flexed or curled. Inflammation of tendons leads to causes trigger finger, which can result in tenderness and pain, limiting the range of motion in your hand. Trigger finger causes vary and may appear through various symptoms. Oftentimes, the best resolution for trigger finger is surgery.

Although surgery may seem like a drastic form of treatment, trigger finger surgery is common and fairly routine. It’s often what offers trigger finger sufferers the most relief after trying other forms of therapy. Qualified surgeons like those at Cohen/Winters offer trigger finger surgery as an outpatient procedure to offer lasting relief from the discomfort associated with trigger finger.

What is Trigger Finger?

Your fingers are comprised of several small bones and muscles. Tendons connect bone to muscle, which in turn allows for movement in your fingers through contractions. Longer tendons, known as flexor tendons, extend from arm to hand. These flexor tendons reach through a sheath. This sheath can be thought of like a kind of tunnel. At times, these tunnels are narrow, due to inflammation. These narrow tunnels may become irritated and swollen, making movement in the finger difficult and painful, resulting in a bump. Once this bump becomes evident, your finger may become stuck in a bent position. This is known as trigger finger.

Trigger finger causes are widely unknown, but the condition tends to occur in certain people more than others. Individuals who commonly experience trigger finger include:

  • Those with pre-existing medical conditions, like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and gout
  • Those who engage in repetitive motions—such as those used in certain tasks like playing musical instruments or working while completing a specific task repeatedly
  • Those between the ages of 40 and 60

Fingers in motion work through a series of pulleys and tendons. When this system is disrupted by inflammation, it becomes difficult for the tendons and pulleys to glide normally, resulting in trigger finger. Both fingers and thumbs can develop trigger finger and become locked in a bent or straight state, without the aid of your other hand.

Symptoms of Trigger Finger

Trigger finger progresses gradually. In the early stages of trigger finger, symptoms may include:

  • Soreness around the base of the thumb or finger that is affected
  • A bump or lump at the base of the finger, connecting to the palm
  • Stiffness
  • Tenderness at the base of the finger
  • Snapping or popping with movement of  the finger

Later stages of trigger finger may have an increase in symptoms, including:

  • Thumb, finger or both becoming locked in a straightened or bent state
  • Inability to straighten finger or thumb without using the other hand

For most people, symptoms of trigger finger are strongest in the morning but begin to loosen up throughout the day as you begin to move your hands more. Individuals who have lingering symptoms of trigger finger often find the only solution is surgery.

If you have experienced popping or locking in the joints of your fingers, then you may have trigger finger. Diagnosis is usually discovered by a physical exam and questions regarding your occupation and hobbies, as well as symptoms you’re experiencing.

Trigger Finger Treatments

Trigger finger is initially treated with various therapies that may include a splint if relief hasn’t progressed. For this option, a doctor will usually suggest ice and heat therapy. Sometimes taking a break from repetitive activities can help delay or offset further damage.

More advanced treatments for trigger finger include steroid injections to alleviate inflammation. For many people, especially those with certain forms of diabetes, symptoms return even after receiving injections. However, these injections can be helpful to provide temporary relief before an individual undergoes surgery.

When other options have failed to offer sufficient relief, many people turn to trigger finger surgery. This procedure releases the tendons that have become tight, preventing motion in the finger. A small incision is placed in a discreet crevice of the hand to release these tendons under a local anesthetic.

Thanks to the latest surgical advancements, there is no reason to get locked into permanent pain with trigger finger. By scheduling a consultation with a qualified surgeon, you can begin finding a resolution for your trigger finger. At Cohen/Winters, we think of the doctor-patient relationship as a partnership to achieve the best post-surgical results. Learn more about trigger finger surgery and your options by booking an appointment to find out how trigger finger surgery can help you regain function in your hand.

hand surgeon NJ

Dr. Yueh

About Dr. Yueh

Dr. Janet H. Yueh specializes in hand surgery including Trigger Finger, Basal Joint Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel and Tendonitis. Dr. Yueh did her undergraduate work at Harvard University in Cambridge where she graduated magna cum laude. She continued her education at Harvard Medical School where she earned her M.D.