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What Is Trigger Finger, and What Can You Do About It?

  • Category: Articles by Clinicians
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  • Written By: Mariem Metry, MS, OTR/L, CHT, Clinical Coordinator, Hand Therapy Program
What Is Trigger Finger, and What Can You Do About It?

The famed educator Maria Montessori once said, “the human hand allows the mind to reveal itself.” 

It’s true! Our hands do so much for us, allowing us to touch, grasp, manipulate objects, and so much more. Unfortunately, with all of the use our hands get over time, there are also many conditions that can adversely affect hand function—and therefore our ability to engage in daily activities. One of the more common hand disorders is known as “trigger finger.”

Trigger finger is a condition in which a finger gets stuck in a bent position and snaps straight like a trigger being pulled and released. It happens when inflammation occurs in the tendon, resulting in a narrowing of the space between the tendon and the protective sheath around it.

Risk Factors
Trigger finger is more common in women and people who have diabetes. It is also common with people whose work requires repetitive gripping. The most-often affected fingers are the thumb and ring finger. However, more than one finger can be affected, and both hands can experience the condition simultaneously.

Depend on the severity of the condition, symptoms can vary from simple finger stiffness (especially in the morning), a locking sensation when trying to bend the affected finger, tenderness, or a bump in the palm at the base of the affected finger.

When should you seek medical help?
If you are experiencing symptoms of trigger finger, start by calling your primary care physician and requesting a physical examination. Diagnosis of trigger finger is usually based on medical history and symptoms. It can be performed at your physician’s office and should not require laboratory work. Your physician may consider referring you to a certified hand therapist.

There are several therapeutic options effective at treating trigger finger. One of these is a splint. A certified hand therapist can provide a custom-made finger splint to keep the affected finger in an extended position, which will help to rest the inflamed tendon and decrease pain.

You may also be advised to try activity modification. This means avoiding activities that require repetitive grasping or the prolonged use of hand-held objects, such as driving, gardening, or typing. Despite the need to decrease certain activities, your therapist may also suggest gentle strengthening exercises to maintain mobility of the affected finger.

Finally, if your symptoms do not improve with therapy, your physician might consider a steroid injection or a percutaneous release surgery. This will likely be considered only if therapeutic options are unsuccessful.

Don’t let trigger finger symptoms go unchecked—call your doctor today if you are experiencing discomfort! If a hand ailment is affecting your quality of life, Casa Colina’s Hand Therapy Program offers specialized services to restore hand and upper extremity function. For more information, call 909/596-7733, ext. 3500.