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The Signs Behind Trigger Finger

Symptoms and diagnosis

By Neurosurgery Singapore

What is a trigger finger?

Trigger finger is a condition in which one of our fingers gets stuck in a bent position. Our finger may bend or straighten with a snap — like a trigger being pulled and released. If trigger finger is severe, our finger may become locked in a bent position. 

People whose work or hobbies require repetitive gripping actions are at higher risk of developing trigger finger. The condition is also more common in women and in anyone with diabetes. Treatment of trigger finger varies depending on the severity.

What are some symptoms of a trigger finger?

Some signs you might notice:

  • A painful clicking or snapping when you bend or straighten your finger. It’s worse when your finger’s been still, and it gets better as you move it.
  • Stiffness in your finger, especially in the morning
  • Soreness or a bump at the base of the finger or thumb. Your doctor will call this a nodule.
  • A popping or clicking as you move your finger
  • A locked finger that you can’t straighten

Symptoms often start out mild and become more severe over time. It’s more likely to affect you after a period of heavy hand use than an injury. It’s often worse:

  • In the morning
  • When you grasp something firmly
  • When you try to straighten your finger

“Trigger finger is commonly linked to age, and existing medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. It is believed that the constant or repetitive overuse of the fingers causes accumulated wear-and-tear at the interface between the flexor tendon and the A1 pulley. Over time, this could cause swelling and inflammation of the flexor tendon, and the development of trigger finger.”

What types of diagnosis?

  • Our Orthopaedic specialist makes the diagnosis based on your medical history and a physical exam. During the physical exam, our doctor will ask you to open and close your hand, checking for areas of pain, smoothness of motion and evidence of locking.

    Our doctor will also feel your palm to see if there is a lump present. If the lump is associated with trigger finger, the lump will move as the finger moves because the lump is an area of swelling in part of the tendon that moves the finger.

Possible treatment methods?

To eliminate the swelling and catching/locking, allowing full, painless movement of the finger or thumb.

Common treatments include, but are not limited to:

  • Night splints
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Changing your activity

If non-surgical treatments do not relieve the symptoms, surgery may be recommended. The goal of surgery is to open the pulley at the base of the finger so that the tendon can glide more freely. The clicking or popping goes away first. Finger motion can return quickly, or there can be some stiffness after surgery. Occasionally, hand therapy is required after surgery to regain better use.

 

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