Tendons are tough bands of tissue that connect bone to muscle. The tendons in your hand are known as flexor tendons. When you move or bend your fingers, these flexor tendons move through lubricated tunnels called tendon sheaths, which also help keep the tendons in place. When either the flexor tendon or the tendon sheath becomes inflamed and swollen, the tendon cannot pass through the sheath very easily.
When you try to bend your finger, and it gets stuck as a result of these issues, this is called flexor tenosynovitis, or trigger finger. People who make repetitive gripping actions in their daily work or hobby are at a higher risk of developing this condition than others.
At the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute, we know that your hands and fingers are important to even the most mundane parts of your life, so we’re proud to offer the most effective and innovative treatments possible, including such regenerative medicine therapies as stem cell therapy or prolotherapy in addition to more conventional treatments.
Because this condition can affect your life so much, the following are 10 things you should know about trigger finger.
1. The Cause of Trigger Finger Is Unknown
Although no one is quite sure why you may develop trigger finger, there are known risk factors to be aware of:
- Being a woman (thought to be 5x more likely to develop this condition than men)
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Being an adult in your 50s or 60s
- Rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and other inflammatory diseases
If any of the above conditions apply to you (especially two or more), then you are at higher risk of developing this condition.
2. It Can Happen in Any Finger
No finger is off limits, although the thumb and middle finger are perhaps the most commonly affected digits.
3. Bending a Trigger Finger Actually Makes a Sound
Many people don’t realize that moving a finger affected by this condition causes an actual sound. When your tendon becomes too inflamed and swollen to fit easily into its tendon sheath, an audible “snap” or “pop” is made when bending your affected finger.
4. It’s Painful
We’re talking about tendons, which are made of tough, thick tissue. Any issue that swells and inflames them so much that they don’t fit into their specially designed sheaths is going to cause pain. When it’s severe enough that your finger gets stuck in a bent or locked position that takes your other hand to help straighten out, then you can imagine how painful that can be.
5. Most Frequently Occurs In Your Dominant Hand
Trigger finger typically occurs in a patient’s dominant hand. This makes sense considering that continued movement of the affected digits often worsens the inflammation and swelling.
6. Trigger Finger Is Different from Tendinitis or Tendinosis
It’s important to understand that there are distinctions between trigger finger and tendonitis or tendinosis because treatment varies among the three.
- Tendonitis is an inflamed, swollen tendon, usually due to damage to the tendon, such as a micro-tear from injury to or overuse of the tendon.
- Tendinosis results from chronic degrading of your tendon fibers over time, a natural result of aging.
- Trigger finger is damage to the protective sheath covering your tendon, which causes swelling of the sheath and limits movement of your tendon through it.
It’s possible for you to have tendonitis or tendinosis AND trigger finger simultaneously, which could create even more complications.
7. About a Quarter of All Cases Get Better Without Treatment
It is often the case that medical conditions with unclear causes can be unpredictable in how they respond to treatment. In fact, some conditions come and go with no symptoms or warning. In about 25% of all cases of this condition, the symptoms, pain, and swelling disappear without treatment or warning.
Unfortunately for the remaining three-quarters of those with this debilitating condition, treatment is necessary to alleviate your pain and locked finger.
8. Surgery is NOT the Only Option for Treatment
Although trigger finger surgery is nearly 100% effective in correcting this issue, it isn’t the only effective conventional treatment available. In fact, your first option should be one of the following:
- Rest and pain medication as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) effectively reduce pain and swelling.
- A splint strapped to the affected finger restricts movement to relieve pain, reduce swelling, and aid recovery.
- Corticosteroid injections reduce swelling and are still effective after decades of successful use.
Although trigger finger surgery on the affected sheath, which allows the tendon to move freely again, is a relatively minor procedure, it’s generally used only after other treatments have not worked.
9. Prolotherapy is a Viable Treatment
Prolotherapy is a decades-old regenerative medicine therapy that uses an irritating agent to stimulate the healing process. When injected into the inflamed, swollen area, the agent regenerates damaged tissue, helping to strengthen and repair the tendons for free movement of your finger once again.
10. Stem Cell Therapy is Effective
Stem cell therapy for hand and wrist injuries is a modern twist that is effective in treating trigger finger. Using image guidance, such as ultrasound, stem cells are grafted to the injured tissue, causing a healing inflammatory response that helps your pain start disappearing within one to two weeks, although complete results won’t be known for one to two months.
Learn more about this condition by visiting WebMD.com.
Got a Painful Trigger Finger? We’ve Got Just Your Therapy!
Trigger finger is a painful condition that affects your life in different ways. Visit the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute in Phoenix today for a consultation about this or other hand issues. With our expert knowledge and treatment options ranging from conventional surgery to cutting-edge stem cell therapy or prolotherapy, we can help you resume a pain-free, happy life.
Next, read our blog, 5 Exercises to Prevent and Relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.