A trigger finger is a form of tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendons that bend the finger. These tendons that connect muscles to the bones of the hand are supported by fibers called pulleys. The pulleys create several tunnels along the length of the fingers which allow the tendons to glide smoothly when the muscle contracts, thus bending the fingers. If there is inflammation present, the tendons cannot pass freely under these pulleys because of swelling and scar tissue.
The most commonly involved fingers are the ring, middle and thumb.
Often times, other repetitive motion disorders have been associated with trigger finger.
The symptoms of a trigger finger may range from mild discomfort to severe pain and locking of the digit. The ability to grasp and release objects may become affected; as the palm often becomes quite tender and maintaining a firm grasp in difficult.
Common activities such as holding a hammer, ironing, driving or carrying a grocery bag may become difficult.
Prolonged trigger finger involvement may progress to the development of a fixed contracture or bent finger. The pain becomes severe and a person may avoid using the finger altogether; this lack of movement can lead to the finger becoming “locked” in a bent position.
What to expect from therapy
You may be referred to a therapist for conservative, non-surgical treatment of trigger finger.
Conservative treatment may include fabrication of a resting positional splint and instruction in gentle mobility and tendon gliding exercises. The therapist will provide you with education regarding precautions and activity modification to prevent aggravation of the condition.
Treatment may also include techniques to decrease the inflammation including heat, cold, ultrasound, or delivery of medicine to the tissues via ultrasound or electricity. S
evere, or progressed trigger finger may require surgery to correct the condition. Surgery involves a release of the pulley and debridement of scarred tissue. Following surgery, you may be referred to a therapist for wound care, techniques to reduce swelling, and instruction in exercises to restore full motion. The therapist will address problems of pain, stiffness and swelling; providing treatment and education to restore functional use of the hand.