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What is Trigger Finger and Trigger Thumb?

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I am the ultimate clean-freak in our household. My kids constantly laugh at me, as I am usually spotted toting a bottle of some spray cleaner or a can of Lysol wherever I go in the house. My husband has jokingly told me that the index finger on my right hand will probably one day lock into the “ready, aim, fire” position without warning, as I use that finger repeatedly throughout the day. Not that I clean all day. That finger also graces the buttons on my computer mouse. In coming across the topic of trigger finger and trigger thumb, I began to wonder if I might possibly sustain “neurotic cleaning finger” in the near future.

Trigger finger is a condition that occurs when someone’s finger or thumb becomes locked in a bent position. The finger or thumb may then straighten out with a snap, much like a trigger being pulled and then released. If the trigger finger becomes severe enough, it can potentially become locked in that bent position.

This condition can be quite painful. It is caused by the narrowing of the sheath surrounding the tendon in the affected finger. People who engage in work activities or hobbies that require repeated gripping actions are more likely to suffer from this condition. It is also seen more in women than in men, and also more common with those who suffer from diabetes. (I am now considering what my options might be to hire a cleaning service!) This injury is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, and the treatment of it varies depending upon the severity of it.

Some of the warning signs of trigger finger or trigger thumb include a noticeable stiffness in the digit, mainly in the morning. You may hear a popping or clicking sound as you move your finger. The base of the finger may be tender or a slight bump may be noticeable at the base of it. Your finger may catch in a locked position and then suddenly pop straight out, or the finger may become locked in a bent position and you will not be able to straighten it.

This condition is frequently seen in the dominant hand, and usually affects your thumb or your middle or ring finger. More than one finger can be affected at once. Sometimes, both hands might be susceptible to this malady. This condition is not to be confused with Dupuytren’s Contracture which causes the thickening and shortening of the palm’s connective tissue. However, that can occur in conjunction with trigger finger.

If you think that you might be affected with this disorder, be sure to speak to your doctor about it. He or she will want to review your symptoms and examine the affected hand. If you notice that your finger or joint is inflamed and hot, you should seek immediate medical attention because that may be indicative of an infection.

Each tendon in the hand is surrounded by a protective sheath, which is lined with tenosynovium. This substance is responsible for releasing the lubricating fluid that lets the tendon move smoothly within the sheath as the finger is routinely bent and straightened.

If the tenosynovium is inflamed due to injury or overuse or even due to such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, the space within the sheath will constrict and the tendon will not be able to glide as smoothly or efficiently. Under these conditions, the finger may get caught in a bent position and then suddenly pop free. Each time it catches, it is being subjected to continued irritation and inflammation, causing the disorder to worsen. As this continues, scarring and thickening can result, causing bumps to form on the finger.

In addition to repetitive gripping action, such as when using a power tool or musical instrument (I did not see cleaning sprays listed here! Whew!), trigger finger or trigger thumb can occur if you suffer from diabetes, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, amyloidosis, and tuberculosis.

Fortunately, the diagnosis of this disorder is not extensive. Your doctor can most likely make a diagnosis based on your medical history and a thorough examination of the affected hand. Treatment for this condition varies and can include resting the affected hand for several weeks; splinting the affected finger in an extended position for several weeks; engaging in gentle exercises with the affected finger; soaking the finger in warm water, especially in the morning when it is most severe; and avoiding the repetitive actions for several weeks that contributed to the injury. (Good reason not to have to clean for awhile!)

For the more serious of cases, your doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication or an injection of a steroid. Also, the doctor may suggest a procedure known as percutaneous trigger finger release that is done under local anesthesia to release the locked finger. The final option would be surgery for those trigger fingers and thumbs that do not respond favorably to the aforementioned options.

(Information for this article was found at www.mayoclinic.com/health/trigger-finger/DS00155/METHOD)

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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