Ouch! Could you have trigger finger?
Do your fingers or thumb catch or lock when you bend them? You could have a quite painful condition called trigger finger! This condition is caused by a defect in the tendon, and causes your finger to get locked into either a bent or straight position. It can cause mild to severe pain, and limit your ability to move the finger, so it can interfere with your ability to use the computer, do your job, or even enjoy your hobbies: in other words, it can significantly reduce your quality of life!
How does it work?
This condition is also known by its scientific name, stenosing tenosynovitis. Usually, tendons glide easily through surrounding tissue, because of a lubricating membrane. But sometimes, the tendon may become inflamed or swollen, and when you bend your finger, it will snap or pop.
It can be caused by repeated finger/thumb movements, and is particularly common among musicians, industrial workers, etc. whose work or hobbies require repeated gripping of objects. It’s also more common among women than men, and diabetics than non-diabetics. It predominates in the 40-60 year old age group.
It often starts out with pain at the finger base, and the most common symptom is painful clicking/snapping when you bend or straighten your finger. It can also involve finger stiffness (especially in the morning), a tender spot or a bump in your palm at the base of the trigger finger, or the finger being stuck in a bent or straight position and unable to be moved.
So what can I do?
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor: they will be able to examine the finger and diagnose the condition. (If you are experiencing hot or inflamed finger joints, then seek immediate medical attention, as this can indicate an infection.) During the exam, your doctor will ask you to open and close your hand, and will identify which areas are painful. They will also check for fluidity of movement of your fingers, and whether your fingers are locking. Additionally, they will check for the bumps mentioned above, at the base of the trigger finger.
If your doctor does find that you have trigger finger, they may use a splint on your hand to keep the joint in place, and they may also prescribe anti-inflammatories. Sometimes, a steroid injection is used. If the condition still persists, surgical solutions are available, with very short recovery times.
You can read about causes, symptoms and treatment of trigger finger in further detail here if you’d like to know more.
Recovery time really does depend on how severe the condition is, and what treatment is used. For the most part, patients will recover in a few weeks through anti-inflammatories and resting the trigger finger until it’s all better. You can also use an ice pack or a warm-water soak if you find that this helps with the pain. Your doctor may also suggest stretching exercises to maintain smooth movement of the affected finger. If you’re prescribed a splint, your doctor may get you to wear it for up to six weeks. Surgery is generally used when other methods have not worked, or for more extreme cases of trigger finger, but it is a comparatively minor surgery that will involve very little downtime and fast recovery, and depending on the surgical method used it can take place in only minutes.
For many people, it’s only when you experience something like trigger finger that you realize how crucial your hands are to your everyday life, and how important it is to take good care of your health and your body! So even if you’re not experiencing trigger finger, try to avoid tasks like repetitive gripping if possible, and take good care of your hands (and the rest of you, of course!)