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Most people dismiss the difficulty in flexing fingers as merely a byproduct of age or hard work, but it could be a lesser-known condition called Trigger Finger. Trigger finger is a very common condition among middle-aged men and people from certain professions, yet there is significant ignorance about it. Let’s understand more about trigger fingers and take a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatments of it.
What is a Trigger Finger?
Trigger Finger is a physical condition that occurs when the tendons between the fingers and palm are inflamed, thus causing tenderness and pain in the area. The condition restricts the movement of the affected fingers and can also restrict you from using your hand properly. The condition is called “trigger finger” because it was historically common among people who used guns too much, thus causing the condition in the finger responsible for pulling the trigger. However, trigger finger can happen in any finger/thumb due to a variety of reasons.
What Causes Trigger Finger?
The fingers are actually made up of a large number of tiny bones, surrounded by muscles. Tendons are tissues that connect these bones to the muscles and make movements possible. In simple words, they are the strings your muscles pull to move the bones. This usually works well, unless something goes wrong:
- The flexor tendon sheath might get narrowed, thus restricting the movement of tendons.
- The tendons might slide off the sheath and become swollen.
- An issue with the synovium (generally termed as synovial membrane) might also inflame the tendons
While trigger finger can be caused due to many things, it can also advance to further stages if left untreated. For instance, a bump might form between tendons to further restrict movements. Alternatively, regular movement of inflamed/swollen tendons can result in scarring.
The Common Symptoms of Trigger Finger
Since trigger finger is purely a physical condition, most of the symptoms are easily observable. Some of the most common symptoms that show up during the initial stages are:
- A constant soreness between the base of the finger/thumb and the palm that persists for a long time
- A bump might be felt in the area around tendons, that is, near the base of the fingers
- Movement of fingers become stiff or restricted
- A clicking or snapping noise when moving the fingers
- Movement of fingers result in sharp pain
- Difficulty in straightening the finger in question
Chronic trigger finger can be characterized by some other symptoms:
- It becomes very hard to form a grip over anything
- Straightening the fingers become almost impossible
- Pain is often the sharpest in the mornings
Risk Factors of Trigger Finger
Few things can make you more vulnerable to developing this condition:
- The condition is more common in people between 40-60 years of age
- Men are generally more vulnerable than women
- Professionals susceptible to high use of fingers such as laborers, stenographers, and musicians are more prone to this condition
- Certain health conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis increase the chances of developing trigger fingers.
Diagnosing Trigger Finger
Trigger finger is one of the easiest conditions to diagnose. The doctor will simply perform a physical exam to feel your tendons and look for any bumps or lumps between them. That, in conjecture with your symptoms, would be enough to deduce that you have trigger finger. No scans like x-rays are required to diagnose this condition.
Treatment of Mild Trigger Finger
In its initial stages, it is very easy to treat the condition. Depending on certain factors like your age, gender and profession, the doctor might suggest one of the following treatment methods:
- Splint: A splint is a rigid structure usually placed to support, or immobilize, a broken bone. In case the inflammation was caused by excessive movement, it helps in restricting any movement and allowing the tissue to heal on its own.
- Anti-inflammatory Drugs: Alternatively, the doctor might prefer to target the inflammation and use mild-to-strong anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Steroids: In case you want a long-term (but not permanent) solution to the problem, steroid injections can help you. A single injection can keep the symptoms of trigger finger suppressed for months.
Treatment of Severe Trigger Finger
In case the condition has worsened beyond drugs and therapy, surgery remains the only option to treat trigger finger. Generally, there are two types of surgeries available for such cases:
- Percutaneous Release: This is a non-invasive surgery. The doctor numbs the affected portion of your hand and then inserts a needle to poke the tendons (in case they had slipped from the tendon sheath). Usually, an ultrasound is used to aid in locating the tendons. This procedure is pain-free and simple, though limited in applicability.
- Full Surgery: This remains the last option for advanced cases of trigger fingers. After applying local anesthesia, the affected area is cut open and operated upon to treat or remove the problem.
Home Remedies for Trigger Finger
Treatment of trigger finger at home is entirely possible, though you would have to diagnose the condition in its very early stage. Here are a few things you can do:
- Relaxing your fingers as much as you can without any aggravating movement.
- Applying ice packs on the affected area to reduce swelling.
- Immersing hand in warm water many times a day to reduce inflammation.
- Performing exercises to slowly regain the movement in the fingers as the tendons heal.
Life after Treatment of Trigger Finger
Surgical treatments of trigger finger are permanent solutions. Home treatments, drugs, and injections can keep the condition at bay, but it might return if there is no change in lifestyle. However, changing the lifestyle after the treatment can go a long way in permanently eliminating the condition.
Trigger fingers are not a major problem, but they could become a nuisance and a handicap in case you are in a profession that depends on fingers. However, diagnosis and treatment at the right time, along with a change in lifestyle, can easily and permanently rid you of the problem.