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What Causes Trigger Finger?

By Apricus Health

24th February 2022

Trigger finger is a serious condition in which can lead to one of your fingers getting stuck in a bent position.

The finger may bend or straighten with a snap as if a trigger was being pulled and released. Trigger finger’s medical name is stenosing tenosynovitis. The leading trigger finger causes affect the tendon’s ability to slide through its membrane, which is how our fingers move regularly. Swelling around this membrane (tendon sheath) limit movement and cause pain on the affected finger.

Individuals whose work or hobbies require repetitive gripping actions are at a much higher risk of developing trigger finger. It is more common in women and those with diabetes. Treatments vary depending on the severity of the injury.

Symptoms of Trigger Finger:

These symptoms can range from very mild to severe, but individuals should keep an eye out for these and, if experiencing, should consult a professional:

  • Stiffness of fingers, particularly in the morning.
  • Cracking or clicking sensation as you move your finger.
  • Tenderness or a lump in the palm at the base of the affected fingers.
  • Swelling in the affected finger.
  • Finger catching or locking in a bent position will suddenly pop into a straight position.
  • The finger is locked in a bent position that you cannot straighten. 

Trigger finger may affect any finger, including the thumb, and more than one finger can be affected at any one time, on both hands. The trigger motion is typically more pronounced in the morning whilst grasping an object or attempting to straighten your finger.

What Causes Trigger Finger? 

The cause of trigger finger in the middle finger or what causes trigger finger in the thumb are identical. Your hand contains many tendons that aid in our movement. These tendons are fibrous cords that attach the muscle to the bone. A protective sheath surrounds each tendon in your hand and finger. Trigger finger occurs when the affected finger's tendon sheath becomes irritated and inflamed. This makes the normal gliding motion of your finger harder to achieve and causes discomfort. Extended irritation of the tendon sheath can cause scarring, swelling, and the formation of tiny bumps called nodules in the tendon that impact the tendon’s motion even more. Many trigger finger causes stem from overuse or injury. 

Am I at Risk of Trigger Finger?

The following factors put any individual at a higher risk of developing trigger finger, and the are some common trigger finger causes: 

  • Occupations and hobbies that involve severe and repetitive hand use and prolonged gripping may increase your risk of developing trigger finger
  • People with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis are at a much higher risk of developing trigger fingers.
  • If you are a woman, you are more at risk of experiencing trigger finger.
  • If you have recently had carpal tunnel syndrome surgery, you are also at risk, as trigger finger is known to be a potential complication associated with surgery after the first six months.

Treatment for Trigger Finger

Depending on how severe the trigger finger is, it may be treated with non-surgical methods. These include anti-inflammatory medications or a local steroid injection into the joint.

Splinting the finger at night is a standard treatment for trigger finger; when an individual lays flat at night, more fluid is built up in their arms. This is the typical cause for the swelling and locking of the fingers in the morning and is often the treatment targeted first. Splinting for functional activities may also be recommended to avoid aggrevaton when using the hand during the day. 

If the condition cannot be successfully treated through non-surgical methods and affects the patient’s quality of life, surgical treatments may be required. Surgical treatment is usually a simple procedure that uses only local anaesthetic and can be done either in the doctor’s office or in an operating room. Surgery will attempt to remove or break up the constricting material causing the tendon to catch and lock in place. 

Seeking Help from a professional  

The help of a professional is the most effective way to recover from and avoid any harmful long-term effects of trigger finger. Your Apricus Health hand therapist can teach you concepts and techniques for managing trigger finger. Proper therapy helps to reduce swelling and will involve a range of measures, including appropriate exercises, massage, compression, immobilisation using a splint and other therapeutic measures to maintain blood flow and re-establish function.

With over 20 years of experience in hand therapy, Apricus Health professionals are well-positioned to answer any questions on what causes trigger finger and is the best place to turn for expert guidance on assessing, treating and managing any hand injuries. Our friendly and experienced team perform hand therapy out of five well-equipped and convenient locations across Townsville, Ingham, and Ayr. 

Book in your complimentary discovery call today to find out how we can guide you to a full recovery.