Trigger finger (also known as stenosing tenosynovitis) is a condition that affects the flexor tendons in your forearm and fingers. These tendons are long, cord-like structures that attach the muscles of the forearm to the bones of the fingers and allow the fingers to bend when the muscles contract. Each flexor tendon passes through a tunnel in the palm and fingers that allows it to glide smoothly as the finger bends and straighten. Along this tunnel is a band of tissues called pulleys that hold the flexor tendons tight to the finger bones. When one of these pulleys becomes inflamed or thickens, it makes fit harder for the tendon to glide through it as the finger bends.
Over time, the flexor tendon can become inflamed and develop small nodules on its surface, causing painful popping or catching sensations when in use. In severe cases, the finger locks and becomes stuck in a bent position.
The cause of trigger finger is not well known, but is more common in people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. People who use their hands, specifically their fingers and thumb, for forceful activities are also more at risk.
Symptoms of trigger finger often start without any injury. They may also follow a period of heavy or extensive hand use, particularly with pinching and grasping activities. Additional symptoms include:
- A catching, popping or locking sensation with finger movement
- Pain when you bend or straighten the finger
- A tender lump at the base of the finger on the palm side of the hand
- Stiffness and pain that worsens after periods of inactivity
- Finger locked in a bent position
Initial treatment for a trigger finger in usually nonsurgical. However, if your finger does not get better, the specialists at OKC Orthopedics, Sports & Pain Medicine may recommend surgery to prevent permanent stiffness. Patients who do undergo surgery experience significant improvement in function as well as relief from the pain of a trigger finger.