What Is Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger, technically known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition where the tendons that help bend your fingers become swollen and cannot easily pass through tunnels of collagen that keep these tendons in the right place. As the swollen tendons slide back and forth through these tunnels, or "pulleys", the swollen part gets caught on one side or the other, causing the finger to get stuck in a flexed position. These swollen tendons hurt all by themselves, but when they are forced through these pulleys when you bend your finger, they get caught and hurt even more.
Trigger fingers are more common in people with diabetes, but anyone can develop this condition. Although we don't fully know the cause of trigger finger, several causes have been suggested including injuries to the hand, overuse, and repetitive activities like gripping.
How is Trigger Finger Treated?
Pain at the base of your finger on the palm side suggests you may have an early trigger finger. Clicking or catching of your finger when you make a fist or straighten out your fingers means your trigger finger is a little more advanced.
When your finger is catching or clicking, Dr. Illing will often recommend a steroid injection to the finger to reduce inflammation in the tendon. Effectiveness of steroid injections depends on the number of fingers affected, whether or not you have diabetes, and several other factors, but is generally 40-80%.
What is Trigger Finger Surgery Like?
If steroid injections don't improve your symptoms, second or third injections can be tried, but the likelihood of successful treatment goes down with each injection. At this point, Dr. Illing will likely talk to you about a small surgery to cut the band of tissue at the base of your finger to reduce tendon inflammation and eliminate the clicking and catching.
Surgery is through a small 1 centimeter incision on your palm. Surgery is outpatient, meaning you do not have to stay overnight. Surgery takes about 15-20 minutes and is typically done under local anesthesia, so you don't go to sleep for the procedure. Dr. Illing requests that you don't lift, push, or pull anything more than 1/2 lb (the weight of a teacup) with that hand for two weeks to allow your incision to heal. After two weeks, as long as the incision looks good, stitches are removed, and you can start getting back to normal activities. Surgery is nearly 100% effective at long term relief of trigger finger.
Do You Have Trigger Finger?
If you have a trigger finger (or thumb), book an appointment for a virtual (telehealth) or in-person visit with Dr. Illing.