Anyone who has experienced trigger finger is naturally anxious for a solution, and hand surgery can often a good option for long-term symptom relief and restoring proper finger or thumb movement. You’ll be glad to hear that, typically, the trigger finger surgery recovery process is straightforward and uneventful, especially when you choose a skilled and attentive NJ hand surgeon.

Trigger finger can be classified as an inconvenient nuisance to an incapacitating handicap, depending on its severity and your activity level on a daily basis. Untreated trigger finger can be detrimental to your manual dexterity for fine work with the hands and can become a major roadblock for you. Needless to say, trigger finger can really interfere with your life, if left untreated.

Trigger Finger Surgery: Safe and Effective Treatment

Hand surgery for trigger finger and the relatively short trigger finger surgery recovery time can make all the difference, which is why I enjoy performing the procedure on good patient candidates. (Patients who’ve reached the point that surgery will benefit them.) The difference in your life before and after hand surgery will likely be quite dramatic. This is what makes NJ trigger finger surgery a gratifying experience for not only a successfully treated (and happy) patient but also for a dedicated hand surgeon.

Typical symptoms of trigger finger can include:

  • Involuntary hesitation in finger movement. Your finger may feel like it’s being tripped up, or “catching” on something, which prevents you from smoothly straightening the affected finger.
  • Clicking noises as if your tendon catches on a pulley or nodule. This begins to irritate the ropes and pulleys, causing inflammation, pain and making finger movement even more difficult.
  • Soreness at the base of the thumb or a finger.
  • Locking of a finger or your thumb in one position often curled and bent at the knuckle.
  • Complete freezing in the trigger position. Over time, untreated trigger finger can damage the pulleys (ligaments) and rope (tendons) to the point that your finger is permanently stuck in a curled position. When you try moving your finger bones with your muscles, the tendons will merely get stuck. They are unable to fit back through the nearby finger ligaments, which eliminates the ability to extend your finger. You may (or may not) be able to straighten it using your other hand.

The Mechanics of Trigger Finger

Your rope-like tendons are getting stuck in the pulleys or ligaments of your fingers. Ligaments (attached to your bones) and tendons (running through the ligaments and next to the bones) may become irritated, swell and develop nodules that make smooth movement difficult. A slippery oil-like material (the tenosynovium), usually works to reduce friction and ease joint movement. Its main purpose is to help the tendons move smoothly through the ligaments.

Unfortunately, continual irritation causes the “sticking” problem to get worse with time, with more nodules and swelling. Over time, your affected finger or thumb tendon can thicken and make it even more difficult to get the ropes through the pulleys smoothly. Although the Tin Man would only need an oil can for this, sufferers in the real world often need to obtain long-term relief from trigger finger surgery.

What’s in a Name? Why Trigger Finger?

In early stages, when your muscles try triggering finger movement as normal, the tendons and ligaments get stuck—then suddenly release, finally allowing (or finally triggering) your finger to pop out straight. Although it may look like you’re continually pulling a trigger in a Hollywood Western, trigger finger is not light entertainment to affected individuals.

What Causes Trigger Finger or Trigger Digit?

Trigger Finger can be caused by any of the following:

  • Repetitive movement that causes wear and tear and joint stress, which might come from your occupation, sports or hobby activities
  • Injury or trauma to the hand
  • Certain health problems, such as arthritis

Your Trigger Finger Surgery and Recovery in NJ

As your hand doctor, if nonsurgical treatments fail, I may recommend surgery to enlarge the ligament tunnel so that the tendon can slip through smoothly once again. Local anesthesia is typical for this type of procedure. (But that doesn’t mean you can drive yourself home afterward!)

Although your surgery is customized to your specific anatomy and situation, I will typically make a small incision in the crease of your palm and cut the ligament (the tunnel/pulley) which allows me access to the tendon. Then, I’ll remove the nodules that are tripping up your finger movement. The nodules act like knots in the rope, and once removed, the tendons/rope can run through smoothly once more. Then, I will close the incision by suturing carefully to avoid a visible scar.

Trigger Finger Surgery Recovery Begins—Weeks 1 and 2

  • You’ll leave with a splint and bandage to absorb normal slight drainage.
  • Keep your dressing dry and clean until your follow-up visit.
  • Keep plastic wrap around your hand and bandage/splint when you shower.
  • Use ice and keep your hand elevated throughout the healing process to ease swelling and relieve any pain.
  • Take pain medication as needed.
  • Prop your arm, wrist and hand on pillows for the first 24 hours after you arrive home to further reduce swelling and pain.
  • Wiggle fingers often to help prevent stiffness.

Trigger Finger Surgery Recovery—Weeks 2-4

  • Stitches will be removed at your follow-up and your incision checked.
  • You’re typically cleared to return to work within 7 to 14 days.
  • Perform exercises as directed, including:
    • Repeatedly make a fist, and open the hand again, with your hand held straight up in order to regain/improve range of motion.
    • Bend and straighten your fingertip.
    • Squeeze a tennis ball to strengthen your muscles and grip.
  • No heavy lifting, pulling or pushing until your wound has completely healed and you’re cleared by your hand surgeon.
  • Massage your trigger finger scar firmly, in a circular motion using thick hand cream or oil several times each day. This helps to keep the scar tissue supple, reduce hypersensitivity and reach/maintain full range of movement. Scar tissue forms to close the gap your hand surgeon cut in the ligament.
  • Rub the scar site for a minute, a few times per day, continuing the process for about 6 months to complete your trigger finger surgery recovery. This will help break up the scar tissue.
  • Your scar will become thicker and somewhat tender. This is at its most bothersome about 1 month after trigger finger surgery. The scar may be painful with direct pressure as scar tissue and inflammation have irritated local nerves. If you continue your hand and finger massage, scar stiffness, sensitivity and soreness will gradually disappear over the next few months.
  • This typically completes the trigger finger surgery recovery process. In a few cases, your surgeon may suggest physical or occupational therapy to help your hand regain full strength and fine motor control.

Will Trigger Finger Surgery Work for Your Condition?

When you’re ready to learn more about trigger finger surgery recovery and other details, contact Cohen/Winters Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery in Bergen County, NJ. Don’t be too concerned about trigger finger surgery recovery; most of our patients come through with flying colors because we’re not happy unless our patients are happy. When you see Cohen/Winters for hand surgery, you can be certain we’ll use our years of experience and precise, gentle surgical methods to ensure the very best outcome (and shortest possible recovery period) for you.

At Cohen/Winters, we are truly dedicated to each of our patients, and we don’t believe you should settle for any less. We’re happy to offer you a consultation to determine if you’re a good candidate and explain your options for trigger finger treatment and trigger finger surgery recovery. Contact us today.

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.