Warning Signs Of Trigger Finger

December 13, 2023

Trigger finger is a condition that occurs when a patient's fingers catch or lock into a bent position. This condition most often affects the ring finger and the thumb, and symptoms are generally worse in the morning. Female patients are most at risk for trigger finger, and it is particularly common in individuals between thirty-five and fifty years old. Occupations and hobbies that involve repetitive hand motions and prolonged gripping increase an individual's chances of developing trigger finger, and patients with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis have an elevated risk of this condition as well. Trigger finger could also develop as a complication of carpal tunnel surgery. In this case, it may appear up to six months after the surgery has been completed.

A diagnosis of trigger finger is made after a physical examination of the hand. During the exam, the doctor will ask the patient to open and close their hands, and they will also feel the palm to check for a moveable lump at the base of the finger. Treatment options for trigger finger include rest, padded gloves, splints, and stretches to improve finger mobility. Some patients may be given corticosteroid injections, and patients with severe cases of trigger finger may be advised to undergo a percutaneous release or a surgical procedure to open the constricted portion of the affected tendon sheath.

Stiff Fingers

Patients with this condition often notice stiff fingers, and this could be painful and limit the patient's range of motion. Finger stiffness could make it difficult to grasp or hold objects, and patients might drop objects more frequently than they otherwise would. Stiff fingers may make everyday tasks such as driving, turning a doorknob, buttoning a shirt, or typing painful. Since stiff fingers often occur in the early stages of trigger finger, seeing a doctor at this time could enable patients to be treated more effectively and successfully. To ease the pain of stiff fingers, it may be helpful to use ice packs or heating pads, and patients might also wish to take anti-inflammatory medication.

Popping Sensation

Individuals affected by trigger finger may feel a popping sensation in the finger, and some patients could hear a popping noise as well; this is sometimes heard as a click. Popping usually occurs when the finger is moved. For example, patients could experience popping while they are typing, opening a jar, or doing an activity that requires the finger to exert force, bear weight, or move against resistance. Some individuals could find the popping sensation frightening, and it may be followed by pain. It could occur when the finger is being bent, and it may also happen when the finger is being straightened.

The popping sensation might sound like a trigger being released, and this sensation gives the condition its name. If possible, being able to replicate the popping sensation during a physical exam with a doctor could be beneficial in the diagnostic process. It can also be helpful for doctors to know if the popping occurs only after certain activities. Patients who have surgery for trigger finger often find the popping sensation is one of the first symptoms to resolve during the recovery period.

Fingers Locked In A Bent Position

Patients affected by trigger finger often find their fingers become locked in a bent position as the condition progresses. Continually holding the fingers in this way creates a lot of tension within the finger, and this could spread into the hand and wrist and create additional medical issues. When the finger is locked in a bent position, it is often difficult to drive, turn pages, tie shoelaces, or brush hair, and this symptom could significantly disrupt the patient's daily activities. The patient may have to use their other hand to straighten the bent finger, and this may have to be done more and more frequently if the patient has had the condition for a prolonged period.

Physical therapy can be beneficial in teaching patients special stretching exercises that can help reduce the amount of bend in the affected finger, and these stretches will also increase finger strength and range of motion. Since many hand conditions can cause the fingers to lock in a bent position, patients should see a hand specialist for an evaluation if this symptom occurs regularly. Surgery is sometimes needed to enable the patient to straighten their fingers again, and doctors may need to perform x-rays or scans to determine the underlying cause for the bending.

Tender Palms

As trigger finger becomes more advanced, patients could notice tender palms. The palms are generally the most painful at the base of the fingers, and tender palms can develop with or without a lump at the base of the finger. Patients who have tender palms should have a thorough physical examination to determine the cause of this symptom. The doctor will ask questions about when the symptom first started, and they will want to know if both palms are tender or if one palm is more tender than the other.

To examine the palms, the doctor will gently palpate the entire surface of the patient's palms, noting areas of pain and checking for any swelling, warmth, tightness, or lumps. They will check both palms in this way to gauge the severity of the patient's symptoms. Most patients find the tenderness in their palms resolves with successful treatment of trigger finger, and the use of ice packs or heating pads could reduce pain from this symptom in the meantime.

Bump At The Base Of The Affected Finger

In some cases, patients may develop a bump at the base of the affected finger. The bump is found on the palm side of the hand, and it is typically soft and mobile; it moves when the patient moves their finger and is not fixed in place. Doctors refer to these lumps as nodules, and they will check for them as part of the physical examination. If the patient has other medical conditions that affect their hands, including arthritis, doctors may need to perform additional tests to fully evaluate the bump and ensure it is due to trigger finger.

Steroid injections may be administered into the bump to reduce swelling and pain, and patients may be asked to return for follow-up appointments so the bump can be closely monitored. If the bump persists after rest, physical therapy, and other conservative treatments, it may need to be surgically removed. Patients should always let their doctor know if the lump increases in size or if it becomes more painful than usual.

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