Trigger finger is a medical condition that can affect any of your fingers, including your thumb. If you experience this issue, your affected finger gets stuck in a bent position. It can occur in one or multiple fingers. Doctors also refer to this condition as stenosing tenosynovitis.
Your tendons are bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. They typically slide smoothly through a sheath made of tissue to promote easy and comfortable movements. If you experience trigger finger, the tendons are irritated and inflamed, which negatively impacts your ability to use your finger(s) normally.
Diagnosis trigger finger typically requires no x-rays or other medical imaging. Your therapist can identify the condition with a physical examination of your hand and a review of your symptoms, including their onset, frequency, severity, and what causes flare-ups.
Multiple treatment options exist to alleviate or eliminate trigger finger symptoms and restore proper function to your hand. Medical care can include physical therapy, medication, injections, ergonomics, and as a last resort, surgery.
Causes and Risk Factors
Trigger finger typically happens due to repeated strain on the fingers which may happen due to your professional occupation or a hobby that involves tasks such as typing on a keyboard or practicing a musical instrument.
Certain medical conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or gout may increase your risk of developing trigger finger. This condition is also common in the first months following surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Trigger finger often appears between the ages of 40 and 60 and is more common in women.
Common trigger finger symptoms include:
- Inability to full bend or straighten the finger
- Popping or clicking when you move the finger
- Soreness or bump (nodule) at the base of the finger
- Stiffness and/or pain when bending the finger
- Swelling in the palm
Your symptoms may be especially noticeable first thing in the morning or after extensive use of the finger.
The primary goal of treating trigger finger is to restore full movement of the finger. Improving function and eliminating pain is what any type of treatment aims to accomplish. Physical therapy can help in several ways.
Hand therapy with a physical therapist can help you work through precise and gentle stretching exercises to remove stiffness and increase your range of motion. You may do those during your in-office sessions and as you progress, your therapist can demonstrate exercises to do at home to sustain your healing.
Your therapist can also recommend a splint to keep your finger still at specific times of the day or night as you work through your medical protocol.
Medication and Injections
Your therapist may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Common over-the-counter options include ibuprofen.
Steroid injections into the tendon sheath can also reduce your symptoms for several months. In certain cases, your therapist may recommend you get two shots to increase your chances of improvement.
Rest plays an important role in treating trigger finger symptoms. Your therapist may also recommend making ergonomic changes to your workstation to minimize the overuse of your hand. They may also demonstrate proper techniques to do specific tasks.
If rest, physical therapy, injections, and ergonomic changes do not alleviate your symptoms, your therapist may recommend surgery. This decision depends on your pain levels and the decrease in finger function. The “trigger finger release” surgery is called “tenolysis.” Surgeons typically perform it as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia.
You can expect some soreness in your hand and should elevate it above your heart to minimize swelling and pain. Moving your finger right away is a common recommendation but your therapist will provide you with specific recovery instructions.
Swelling and other trigger finger symptoms may take up to six months to fully disappear. You may need to see your physical therapist for hand therapy as part of your healing plan.
Are you experiencing trigger finger symptoms? Contact ProFysio Physical Therapy today at (732) 812-5200 to schedule an appointment in Monmouth or Middlesex Counties!