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Printed at: 10:59:39 / 25-02-2021

Hand Therapy Unit: Trigger Finger

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What is Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger is a condition that affects the flexor tendons in the hand. It occurs when movement of the affected tendon is limited by swelling or thickening. This causes the finger to lock or catch as the finger is opened.

How do I know if I’ve got Trigger Finger?
Symptoms of trigger finger may include the presence of a small lump, pain in the palm, swelling and a catching or popping sensation in the finger or thumb on movement. Stiffness and catching will be present on movement of the affected finger, particularly first thing in the morning. In severe cases the finger cannot be straightened, even with help. Triggering may affect one or more digits including the thumb. Trigger finger often has no apparent cause; however it has several contributing factors including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and hypothyroidism.

Trigger finger is up to six times more common in women than men, in addition to affecting children under 6 years and adults over 40. It is most common in people in their 50s and 60s. Although there is no evidence, trigger finger may be linked to repetitive movement and gripping, such as using power tools at work. There are no precise ways of diagnosing trigger finger. It can usually be diagnosed with a hand examination and a history of symptoms.

Hand Therapy Treatment
There is very little hand therapy that can help with trigger finger in its initial stages, a splint is provided for night use to keep the finger straight and prevent it from locking. Sometimes applying topical anti-inflammatory cream over the painful area can also help.

Most people only need hand therapy after surgery.

Other treatments for Trigger Finger
A corticosteroid injection may be administered into the tendon sheath at the base of the triggering finger or thumb. Corticosteroids are thought to work because they have an anti-inflammatory effect on the thickened sheath. This reduces the swelling and allows the tendon to move freely. This form of treatment is effective for 60-90% of people. Corticosteroid injections can only ever be administered twice as can cause permanent tendon damage.

If corticosteroid treatment is unsuccessful, surgery is usually recommended. The goal of surgery is to widen and release the tight opening of the tendon sheath so that the tendon can slide through it more easily. Surgery is 90-100% effective and is usually performed as a day case under local anaesthetic, but sometimes general anaesthetic.