Wayne Weil, MD is Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle’s hand and wrist specialist, and he often diagnoses trigger finger. Dr. Weil sees and treats many patients with trigger finger. Here we will examine the condition and include basic information about its treatment.
Trigger finger occurs when the motion of the tendon that opens and closes the finger is limited, causing the finger to lock or catch as the finger is extended. Your finger or thumb will catch in a bent position – and may straighten again with a snap, like a trigger being pulled and released. If you have severe trigger finger, your finger may become locked in a bent position.
Causes of Trigger Finger
The tendons that control the movements of the fingers and thumb slide through a narrow tunnel of tissue. Trigger finger is caused by a narrowing of the tunnel. The tendon can become irritated as it slips through the narrow tunnel. As it becomes more and more irritated, the tunnel can continue to thicken, making its passage more difficult. The tendon can then become stuck at the entrance of the tunnel as the finger is extended.
At this point, a person might feel a pop, and a painful catching feeling as the finger is moved. People whose work or hobbies require repetitive gripping actions are more susceptible. Trigger finger is also more common in women than in men. The condition is also more common in people with certain medical issues including diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Signs & Symptoms of Trigger Finger
Most times, the symptoms of trigger finger start without an injury. One might feel a small lump, a pain the palm, a catching or popping sensation – or they might notice swelling.
Often the catching and stiffness is worse in the morning of after periods of inactivity, but will loosen up throughout the day.
Diagnosis & Treatment of Trigger Finger
Dr. Wayne Weil at Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle (OSS) frequently diagnoses and treats trigger finger. In mild cases, splints to rest the finger, or over-the-counter pain medications and/or corticosteroid injections may be recommended. Injections are less likely to provide permanent relief when a person has experienced trigger finger for a long time, or if there is an associated medical problem such as diabetes.
Surgical treatment may be recommended for more severe cases. If the finger is stuck in a bent position, or if the symptoms are severe, surgery may be the best course of treatment. Surgery’s goal is to widen the opening of the tunnel so that the tendon can slide through it more easily. It’s usually an outpatient surgery performed through a small incision. Dr. Weil frequently performs surgery for patients with trigger finger at OSS’ on-site surgery center, Seattle Orthopedic Center.