The common definition of “trigger finger” involves a person who enjoys or is perhaps likely to discharge a firearm. The medical definition of a “trigger finger” is quite different.
Trigger fingers (sometimes referred to as stenosing tenosynovitis, ugh) are quite painful. Typical symptoms include a painful range of motion of the finger(s) with bending and straightening motions. Very often the finger will get “stuck” while the patient is attempting to bend the finger. The finger will often make a “popping” noise as the finger breaks through the stiff portion of the range, resulting in sharp pain.
The most common cause of trigger fingers is repetitive motions such as typing or incessantly pressing buttons on a hand held device.
In order to understand what is occurring with this pain and “popping,” look at the following illustration. We can see the flexor tendons of the finger are held in place by small pulleys (labeled A1, A2 etc. in the illustration below). When the tendons become irritated from overuse, they can develop small irregularities, or swollen nodules, on the tendon’s surface. The result is that the raised / swollen part of the tendon gets stuck as it tries to glide through the pulley when the finger bends and straightens.
Trigger fingers need to be rested! Active bending of the finger must be halted for at least 4-6 weeks in order to allow the swollen portion of the tendon to subside. One way to accomplish this is to block the first joint of the finger with a “ring splint.” You can see an example of a ring splint in the photo above. This piece of plastic will essentially keep the knuckle from bending, and it is also quite the conversation piece!
We, of course, welcome any questions or comments on treatment ideas. If you have suffered from a trigger finger, we want to hear from you!