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Stenosing Tenosynovitis: Trigger Finger

  • Mar 12 2020

What causes someone to develop trigger finger?

If someone told you that they had been diagnosed with trigger finger, would you have visions of their friends and family staging some sort of intervention about their obsession with firearms? Or that the endless hours they spend as a gamer, either online or at an arcade, have caught up with them?

Chances are, neither would be correct, although technically they could be. Even in the time of the Old West, when gunslingers were actually labeled with “trigger fingers” due to the number of altercations that were settled with firearms, it is unlikely that the number of times they pulled those triggers would have resulted in a medical diagnosis of trigger finger. Gamers, on the other hand, rapidly repeat the same motion thousands of times and might fall into this category. 

When doctors refer to trigger finger, or stenosing tenosynovitis, they are talking about a condition that affects one or more of the fingers as a result of repeated or forceful use. The reason that we have so much dexterity and range of motion with our fingers is because of the tendons that not only hold the muscles and bones together, but do so in a way that allows for easy bending and straightening. If these tendons become irritated and inflamed due to excessive demands, scar tissue can build up. This then impairs movement and, at some point, it can result in the finger becoming locked and unable to straighten. 

Those most often susceptible to trigger finger are workers in jobs that involve repetition of the same movement or having the hand and fingers locked into the same position. Good examples are mechanics, factory assembly line workers and construction workers. Musicians and athletes are also prime targets for trigger finger. Individuals who have diabetes, gout or rheumatoid arthritis are also more likely to develop this condition. 

Symptoms of Trigger Finger

It would seem most likely that the index finger, the one that actually pulls the trigger in the traditional sense, would be the one most often affected. More often than not, though, the fingers that end up with the problem are the ring finger and the little finger. Signs that indicate that you may have or be developing this condition include:

  • Inability to straighten a finger, essentially it is locked in a bent position
  • Hearing a popping sound or feeling a clicking sensation when moving your finger
  • Stiffness without apparent cause in one or more fingers, usually worse when waking in the morning
  • Obvious bump at the base of the affected finger
  • Soreness in the palm of the hand
  • You may be able to bend and straighten your finger but it seems to catch when bent and then may pop into a straightened position on its own

Treatment Options

The good news is that trigger finger is often temporary and simply resting and avoiding the movements that caused it will do the trick. Your doctor may also suggest anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections and using a splint while you sleep to keep the finger in a straight position. For the most severe cases, trigger finger release surgery may be recommended. 

If you have questions about trigger finger or any other orthopedic concerns, the physicians and staff of South Island Orthopedics are very experienced in treating a wide range of orthopedic conditions. To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here

Posted in: Hand & Wrist