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To understand how trigger finger occurs, it’s important to understand a little bit of the anatomy of the hand. Your finger has muscles and tendons that work together to facilitate bending and straightening. When you bend your finger, the muscles in the finger contract and pull on the tendons, causing it to curl.
When the finger is in a curled position, there are sheaths that hold the tendons in place to prevent the finger from snapping straight. If something irritates the tendons, they may swell. This causes rubbing against the sheaths each time the finger is flexed and straightened.
Over time, if the irritation continues, the tendons become too thick to glide smoothly through the sheaths. When you curl your finger, the thickened swollen section gets stuck. You then have to use your other hand to straighten the stuck finger.
Individuals whose work or hobbies involves repetitive gripping and releasing motions of the hand are at a higher risk of developing trigger finger.
The occurrence of trigger finger
Trigger finger mostly affects adults in their 50s and 60s, and is six times more likely to afflict women than men. Diabetics are at higher risk of developing trigger finger.
Other risk factors of trigger finger include having carpal tunnel syndrome, de Quervain’s disease, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and kidney disease.
The fingers most commonly affected are the ring finger and thumb.
Trigger finger initially presents itself as a painless clicking sound when you bend and straighten your finger. If not treated, the condition turns painful and causes a popping sound when you bend and extend your finger. Other symptoms include:
- Finger stiffness, particularly in the morning
- A clicking sensation as you move your finger
- Tenderness at the base of the affected finger
- A bent finger that suddenly pops straight
At Coastal Empire Orthopedics in Savannah, Georgia, Dr. Jonathan Shults makes a diagnosis based on your medical history and a physical exam. If he diagnoses trigger finger, he can guide you on the best treatment and management options.
Treatment plans usually depend on the severity of the condition. In the early stages, Dr. Shults may recommend treatment options that include:
Resting your fingers and refraining from repetitive grasping and extending motions go a long way to reducing the irritation of the tendons in your hand.
Our team can make a splint for the affected finger to keep it straight, especially when you're resting or sleeping.
Gentle exercises can help reduce the stiffness in the affected fingers. These exercises should be done under the guidance of our certified nurses to prevent aggravating the condition.
This is generally accepted as a first line of therapy for treating trigger finger. This procedure should be performed by a board-certified doctor because, if done incorrectly, it can damage the tendons in the finger.
Advanced stages and surgery
If conservative approaches don’t solve your trigger finger, Dr. Shults may advise elective surgery to prevent permanent stiffness of the finger. He takes you through the post-op expectations and risks that you may face.
Patients who’ve undergone elective surgery experience improved function in the affected finger as well as relief from pain
Seek medical advice
If you’re in the Savannah area and are concerned about trigger finger or another orthopedic issue, we encourage you to make an appointment with Dr. Shults and the Coastal Empire Orthopedics team as soon as symptoms present themselves. Call or book your appointment online today.