If you can’t move your thumb or finger out of a painful, crooked position, you may have trigger finger. This condition is associated with diabetes, gout, and other diseases, as well as certain repetitive activities. However, you’re more susceptible to this condition if you’re a woman in your 40s or 50s. While trigger finger affects both sexes, it occurs six times more often in women than men.
Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Shults, MD, and his team at Coastal Empire Orthopedics in Savannah, Georgia, can help you understand your risk for developing this condition and what you can do if it occurs. Dr. Shults provides expert care for all patients who develop trigger finger. With proper treatment, you can resume normal activities and prevent a recurrence.
What is trigger finger?
Trigger finger, also called stenosing tenosynovitis, affects the tendons that control how your fingers bend and flex. With each finger, a tendon slides back and forth through a sheath as your hand flexes and grips. Each sheath acts like a tunnel to keep your tendons in place.
If a tendon or the sheath becomes irritated or inflamed, the tendon won’t slide easily through the sheath. Instead, the tendon can get stuck, and the affected finger won’t go back to a straight position.
If your finger remains stuck, you may have to use your other hand to help release it. You may also experience a clicking or popping sensation when the tendon moves. Any pain, stiffness, and swelling may be worse in the morning. Symptoms of trigger finger can also include a lump or swelling in the palm of your hand.
Why does trigger finger occur more often in women?
While more women than men develop trigger finger, there’s no conclusive evidence that indicates why this occurs. The fact that women’s hands are typically smaller than men’s may mean they’re more likely to grip tools or instruments in ways that allow the condition to easily develop. Participating in tennis and golf, as well as hobbies or jobs that involve repetitive motions, may also put women at a higher risk for developing trigger finger.
Other factors may also contribute to higher rates of trigger finger among middle-aged women. A recent study in Japan examined the relationship between hand and finger disorders and the drop in estrogen levels that occurs during and after menopause. The study suggested that lower estrogen levels may contribute to the swelling of the membranes in the sheaths surrounding the tendons, resulting in trigger finger.
Having specific diseases can also put you at a higher risk for developing trigger finger. You’re more likely to develop trigger finger if you have rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that occurs in about three times as many women as men.
What is clear is that repetitive use of the hands can worsen symptoms. Gardening, pruning, clipping, and other tasks that involve gripping movements can contribute to its occurrence.
What noninvasive treatments work for trigger finger?
Treatment for trigger finger remains the same whether you’re a man or woman. One or more of the following noninvasive treatments may help:
- Avoiding activities that make your symptoms worse
- Immobilizing the affected thumb or finger with a splint to prevent it from locking
- Applying an ice pack several times a day to prevent swelling
- Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen
- Performing gentle stretching exercises
When these conservative options don’t work, you may benefit from a steroid injection at the base of the affected finger. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may need a second injection after six weeks.
Can surgery help trigger finger?
Trigger finger surgery may be appropriate when injections and conservative treatments fail. Two surgical options exist:
Percutaneous release involves the insertion of a needle into the tissue surrounding the tendon. With ultrasound guidance, Dr. Shults uses the needle to break apart the constriction interfering with the smooth motion of the tendon.
Open trigger finger surgery
Open trigger finger surgery involves making an incision, then opening up the constricted area of the affected sheath so the tendon can glide smoothly. This procedure typically restores movement immediately, though full recovery can take up to a month or more.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of trigger finger, find out how you can relieve the pain and regain full function by booking an appointment online or over the phone with Coastal Empire Orthopedics.