Can Trigger Finger be Cured Without Surgery?
The human hand is a marvel of intricate design and remarkable functionality, enabling us to perform countless tasks with precision and dexterity. However, when conditions such as trigger finger arise, this vital tool can become compromised, causing discomfort and hindering our ability to do daily tasks. Trigger finger, which is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a common hand condition that affects the flexor tendons, leading to pain, stiffness, and the triggering or locking of a finger in a bent position.
Traditionally, surgical intervention has been the go-to treatment for severe cases of trigger finger. However, advancements in medical science and the emergence of non-surgical therapies have opened up new possibilities for patients seeking relief from this ailment. In this article, we explore what the condition is, how you can treat it at home, and when it’s time to seek medical advice.
What Is Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger, also known as flexor tendonitis or stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition that affects the fingers or thumb. It causes pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving the finger. Trigger finger usually occurs when the tendons in the affected finger become inflamed or irritated. Here’s how the condition typically develops:
The Tendons Become Inflamed
The tendons that enable the fingers to move typically glide smoothly through a tunnel-like structure called the tendon sheath. When these tendons become irritated or inflamed, it can lead to swelling and thickening of the tendon and the surrounding sheaths. Forceful hand movements, underlying medical conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis), or finger joint abnormalities typically cause this.
A Nodule Forms
As the inflammation persists, a small nodule or bump may form on the tendon or within the tendon sheath. This nodule can interfere with the smooth gliding motion of the tendon. This can cause the tendon to catch or get stuck when you’re trying to bend or straighten the affected finger.
Finger Becomes Stiff or Locks Up
As you bend or straighten your finger, the affected tendon may catch on the nodule. This can cause a sudden “triggering” or “popping” sensation. Your finger may then snap or lock into a bent position and require effort to straighten it fully.
Finger Becomes Painful or Causes Discomfort
Trigger finger is often associated with pain, tenderness, or aching at the base of the affected finger. In some cases, it’s also associated with swelling or a visible bump. The symptoms may get worse with prolonged or repetitive hand movements.
Who Can Get Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger can affect people of any age and gender, but certain factors can increase your risk of developing the condition. Here’s a breakdown of who trigger finger commonly affects:
- Age: Trigger finger can occur at any age, but it’s more commonly seen in adults between the ages of 40 and 60. As you age, the tendons and surrounding tissues may become more susceptible to inflammation and irritation.
- Gender: Trigger finger appears to affect women more frequently than men. The exact reason for this gender disparity is not fully understood, but hormonal factors or differences in hand use and occupational activities may contribute to the higher prevalence in women.
- Occupation and activities: Certain occupations and activities that involve repetitive hand or finger movements can increase the risk of developing trigger finger. Examples include musicians, assembly line workers, farmers, and those who engage in excessive typing or computer work.
- Underlying medical conditions: People with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, hypothyroidism, or metabolic disorders, have a higher risk of developing trigger finger. These conditions can contribute to inflammation in the tendons and increase the likelihood of developing the condition.
- Hand and finger anatomy: Anatomical factors, such as a naturally thicker or narrower tendon sheath, may predispose you to trigger finger. Previous hand or finger injuries, joint abnormalities, or structural variations can increase the risk.
It’s important to note that while certain factors may increase your likelihood of developing trigger finger, the condition can still occur in individuals with none of these risk factors. If you experience symptoms such as finger stiffness, popping or locking sensations, or pain and discomfort at the base of your finger, we recommend consulting with a health care professional, such as the orthopedic hand surgeon Dr. Knight, for an accurate diagnosis and treatment options.
Can You Cure Trigger Finger Without Surgery?
If you’re experiencing trigger finger symptoms, there are several measures you can take to help ease discomfort and improve your condition without having to undergo surgery. Here are some self-care and home remedies that may provide relief for mild cases:
- Rest and modification of activities: Avoid activities that worsen your symptoms or require repetitive gripping or grasping motions. Taking breaks and changing your hand movements regularly can help reduce stress on the affected finger.
- Finger exercises and stretching: Gentle exercises and finger stretches can help improve finger mobility and reduce stiffness. Consult with a health care professional or hand therapist for specific physical therapy exercises tailored to your condition.
- Apply heat or cold: Applying a warm compress or soaking your hand in warm water can alleviate stiffness and promote blood circulation, while an ice pack may help reduce inflammation and swelling. Experiment with both heat and cold to determine which provides the most relief for you.
- Splinting: Wearing a splint or brace can help immobilize the affected finger, providing rest and support. This can be helpful during sleep or when engaging in activities that aggravate symptoms.
- Over-the-counter pain relief: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with trigger finger. Follow the recommended dosage instructions and consult with a health care professional if you have any concerns or underlying medical conditions.
When To Consult a Medical Professional
It’s important to note that self-care or at-home measures are generally helpful for mild to moderate trigger finger symptoms. However, if your symptoms persist, worsen, or significantly impact your daily activities, we recommend consulting with a health care professional, such as our team of highly trained hand and wrist surgeons in Dallas. We can evaluate your condition, provide an accurate diagnosis, and recommend the best treatment options for you, which may include splinting, medication, corticosteroid injections, or in some cases, surgical intervention. Request an appointment with our team today.