Trigger Finger: Symptoms, Causes, and Non-Surgical Treatment Options

If you’re struggling to move your thumb or if one of your fingers is unusually bent, you may be experiencing a condition called trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis. This condition affects the tendons that control how your fingers move and bend. 

Tendons are responsible for providing the necessary flexibility that allows you to grip and flex your hands with ease. The sheath surrounding the tendon is a tunnel to keep it in position. However, when the tendon or sheath becomes inflamed or irritated, it can impact the smooth movement of your fingers. 

It can result in the jamming of the tendon, preventing the affected finger from returning to its normal position. Fortunately, non-surgical treatment options such as pain management, therapy, and medication can help fix your trigger finger and restore your range of motion.

Symptoms of Trigger Finger

Individuals with trigger finger conditions can no longer do their daily tasks or simple activities without debilitating pain. That said, here are the common trigger finger symptoms below.

  • Pain and Stiffness

You will experience excruciating pain at the base of your finger, where it connects with the palm. The pain will get worse when you overuse the affected fingers. Besides, the injured area will appear stiffened and tender.

  • Clicking or Popping Sensation

You might hear a popping or clicking sound when you move or extend your finger. Also, you may feel like the finger is locking up while extending it along the way. It occurs due to the inflammation of the sheath as the tendon has to squeeze through it while you are extending the finger. 

  • Limited Movement

The finger may have to stay in a neutral position often due to the stiffness and pain in the affected area. Moving or bending the finger is challenging, as the condition is associated with limited mobility.

  • Formation of Lump or Nodule

A lump or a nodule is formed at the base of the affected finger, which will be extremely painful to touch or apply slight pressure.

Causes of Trigger Finger

The trigger finger affects every individual, despite age and gender. Nonetheless, studies show it is more highly diagnosed in women between 40 and 50 years of age than in men. Below are some major trigger finger causes

  • Repetitive Motion

Individuals who perform repetitive and heavy movements using their hands and wrists, like prolonged gripping at work, have a higher risk of developing the trigger finger. It causes inflammation of the tenosynovium, making it difficult for the tendon to move smoothly through the sheath.

  • Medical Conditions

People diagnosed with certain medical conditions are likely to have trigger fingers. Rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism and other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, are some causes of trigger fingers.

  • Trauma or Injury 

People who have experienced previous medical injury or trauma to their hands or fingers are also highly susceptible to the condition. 

  • Genetic Predisposition

Genetic disposition or calcification is another factor reported for trigger fingers on a delayed basis. It is due to the accumulation of foreign substances in the flexor tendon that forms the lump or nodule. 

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Trigger Finger

The trigger finger treatment plan depends on the condition’s severity and symptoms. So, below are some best conservative trigger finger treatments without surgery.

  • Rest and Activity Modification

Resting your affected finger is the first step in treating the trigger finger. Besides, modifying or limiting particular activities that progress your symptoms has also been recommended to prevent further damage. 

  • Hand Therapy Exercises

Research shows that hand therapy exercises around the affected tendon regions will help release the tension or constriction, preventing the tendon’s natural smooth motion. Practising gentle exercises like tower grasp and physical therapy will relieve nerve problems, decrease pain and improve overall function. 

  • Use of Splints or Braces

Wearing assistive devices like splints or braces will limit the movement of your finger, allowing your finger to heal naturally. It will help you maintain an extended and neutral position throughout the day, especially at night. 

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

In general, NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen are prescribed to keep the inflammation and swelling low while effectively reducing the pain in the affected fingers. 

  • Corticosteroid Injections

Your physician generally prescribes corticosteroid injections to inject directly into the flexor tendon sheath. The steroid cortisone reduces the swelling or stiffness within the tendon and alleviates the symptoms. However, when the symptoms recur, it is suggested to opt for a repeated injection based on the condition and preference of the patients. 

  • Alternative Treatment for Trigger Finger

Massage: A gentle massage session for 30 minutes daily will help relieve pain. Firm pressure on the affected areas in small circles will heal the stiffness effectively.

Chiropractic Care: A chiropractic session uses gentle adjustments of the joints to restore the proper function of your finger by addressing the root cause of the pain. 

Benefits of Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Trigger Finger

When it comes to orthopaedic diseases, people prefer to opt for a non-invasive treatment approach due to its numerous benefits. Here we have listed some reasons to choose conservative treatment for the trigger finger.

  • Reduced Pain and Stiffness

Non-surgical treatment options primarily focus on resting/ immobilising the affected finger for a few weeks to resolve the symptoms, especially in the mild or early stage. Injection therapy is often suggested to decrease stiffness and dull pain for worse symptoms. 

  • Improved Range of Motion

Unlike surgical procedures, these non-invasive treatments make it easy to recover from the condition. You don’t have to rely on others for a long time and can resume your normal activities with an improved range of motion in a few days.

  • Avoidance of Surgery and Associated Risks

When the condition is diagnosed in the early stage, there is no need to undergo surgery that might cause pain or discomfort. Also, you can prevent the risk of complications and infections associated with invasive treatment methods.

  • Cost-Effective Treatment Option

Non-surgical procedures are pain-free and less complicated, which makes them a cost-effective treatment option for the trigger finger. You don’t have to stay in the hospital or undergo any pre-preparation process that will cost you more. 

Conclusion

A trigger finger can be a painful and uncomfortable ailment, restricting the normal use of your hand. When left untreated, it will cause long-term complications, including permanent digit swelling, contracture, and torn or ruptured tendons. However, it is treatable with non-surgical approaches that will resolve the symptoms and improve the quality of your life. 

Opting for early consultation with the orthopaedic specialist upon diagnosis of the trigger finger will get you timely treatment. It will help you resume your active lifestyle and regain optimal function in the long haul.

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