What is Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger is inflammation of one of the tendons, or cord like structures on the palm side of the hand that allows the fingers and thumb to bend. The tendon is surrounded by a fluid filled tube or sheath that allows the tendon to glide more easily. When the tendon is inflamed, it cannot glide easily, making it difficult to bend or straighten the finger or thumb.  This is also known as tendonitis.

What are the symptoms of trigger finger?

The first sign of trigger finger may be pain and a small nodule or bump in the palm of hand. A doctor or hand therapist may feel for the tenderness and swelling at the base of the finger or thumb. The patient will be asked to make a fist and then straighten the fingers.  The affected finger or thumb may stay curled and then suddenly pop to a straight position, as if releasing the trigger of a gun.  This repeated catching and releasing continues to irritate the tendon.  If the condition persists for several months, the finger may become stiff.

What causes trigger finger?

Often the cause of trigger finger is unknown; however, trigger finger may occur with repeated gripping or with the use of tools such as a drill or wrench.  It is also more common in people with diabetes, arthritis or when there has been an injury to the palm of the hand.

What is the treatment for trigger finger?

If the symptoms are mild, the doctor may prescribes anti-inflammatory medication.  If the triggering is moderate to severe, the doctor may recommend a cortisone injection along with a custom made orthosis designed to rest the finger made by a hand therapist. Surgery may be recommended if resting or injections do not relieve the triggering.

What can a hand therapist do for me?

For non-operative treatment, the Hand Therapist has specialized training to fabricate a custom splint to rest the finger, and to teach the patient exercise to avoid stiffness during the healing process. The hand therapist will also discuss ways to modify activities while the finger is healing. Hand therapy following surgery will improve range of motion, and teach the patient how to regain the function of the hand.