Our hands have such precision motor skills because each individual digit can move freely through a full range of motion. If this motoring skill is hampered even in a single digit it can result in a considerable loss of normal function. Trigger finger is such a bone and joint condition which hampers your finger’s flexion and extension abilities making it difficult to perform even simple daily chores without pain. The affected digit gets locked in a curled up position when bent towards the palm and frees with a pop, a mechanism from which the condition’s name is derived.
What is trigger finger?
Our fingers achieve this excellent dexterity through a complicated mechanism which involves pulley like structures along each digit of the hand. This pulley mechanism is dependent on the flexor tendon sheath for smooth gliding movement in normal condition. For a cause yet unknown, the flexor tendon sheath present in the digits thickens making the movement through the pulleys difficult. The tendon gets stuck in the pulley when a flexion (curling movement of the digit) is attempted. This curled up position can be a permanent deformity or the finger might snap back into normal position through a forced extension.
Trigger finger is caused by the inflammation of the tendon sheath which hampers the gliding mechanism in the digit pulleys but what triggers this inflammation is still unknown. The most commonly known facts about trigger finger are that it is commonly observed in the 3rd or 4th digit and they are more common in women than men. There are strong chances that patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Another widely accepted theory is that of repetitive trauma to a particular digit.
Pain at the base of the affected finger or thumb is noted during the initial phase of the injury. A small nodule is observed at the base of the affected finger which might feel tender. Finger stiffness and locking-popping of the affected finger in the morning is commonly reported by patients. For those suffering from the condition for a long time, the locking and popping mechanism gets worse.
Trigger finger is confirmed through a series of physical tests performed by your physiotherapist or general physician. Diagnosis is made based on your medical history and a thorough physical check of the affected digit. Differential diagnostic tests might be carried on to confirm trigger finger. If your physician has doubts about an undiagnosed primary condition causing trigger finger, tests to confirm that disease might be recommended.
The first line of treatment is prescription of pain killer NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen. Physical therapy is recommended for patients with chronic condition to reduce swelling, pain and stiffness in the affected digit. Occupational therapy is recommended for patients to go about their daily chores without being worried about the pain. Surgery is an option only in extreme cases where the tunnel is expanded to accommodate the inflamed tendon sheath.
If your experience any kind of morning stiffness in your fingers, visit your physiotherapist at the earliest for it might be trigger finger.