Your fingers are made up of tendons that enable them to move and bend. In your fingers, your tendons are covered in a tunnel-like structure of tissues, called a sheath. Normally, Your fingers should easily glide without any issues. However, it’s not uncommon for your tendons to become inflamed for whatever reason. The inflammation makes the tendons too swollen to properly glide throughout your sheath. If your tendons are not gliding through the sheath correctly they could potentially lock, bend, click, or knot...which can be very painful and debilitating, this is what we call trigger finger.
There is no clear and definitive cause of trigger finger. However, there are some clear circumstances that make trigger finger more common or at least increase your chances of getting trigger finger. These include the following:
The “triad” of conditions: These three conditions are commonly seen on the same patient, they include trigger finger, Dupuytren's contracture, and carpal tunnel.
People with diabetes: People with diabetes have an increased chance of developing trigger finger, most likely due to joint issues.
People with rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the joints.
Occupations with repeated gripping: The commonly include farmers, musicians, and industrial workers.
Your sex: It’s a 4:1 ratio of women to men who suffer from trigger finger, the reason for this is unknown.
Thankfully, there are numerous natural remedies to try at home or with a physical therapist to cure trigger finger. Some of the options to treat trigger finger are more conservative than others, but these trigger finger solutions may work best in unison. Depending on the severity of your trigger finger, you may want to address your circumstances with a doctor. However, the following home remedies and treatments have proven results in pain relief.
Trigger Finger splints or braces are great because they immobilize the affected area, making them a wonderful at home treatment option while avoiding surgery. Trigger finger braces will work to immobilize the area of pain while still enabling you to have the full use of your hand. If you’re looking for a lot of support from your trigger thumb or finger brace, make sure to find a rigid finger brace. This brace is great to wear at night in order to avoid any trigger finger complications or pain during the day. But, it also works great as a day brace too.
This type of brace may also help in post surgery situations, which you can read more about below. This brace is universal in size meaning you’ll never have to worry about swelling of your finger. The universal and adjustable size also allows for the brace to be worn on any of your fingers, including your thumb, index, middle, ring, and pinky.
If you're suffering from trigger finger in multiple fingers you may want to try a brace for multiple fingers. This brace will allow for more than one of your fingers to be immobilized at a time.
Acupuncture has been used as a pain relief method for trigger finger. A number of acupuncture points can be found on the hand in order to heal pain. The main points are called the baxie point and jing-well. Different places on the sides of your fingers are often used in acupuncture practice as well.
Gentle exercises help to maintain mobility in your fingers and are also good practice to prevent trigger finger. Here are examples of a few of our favorites:
This is an extensor trigger finger exercise that involves drawing the thumb and fingers together, wrapping a rubber band around them, and then opening and closing the hand against this resistance.
This exercise involves placing your finger that is affected to your thumb, essentially creating a circle shape with your fingers. Hold this for about five seconds then repeat around 10 times.
For additional ideas read our blog on trigger finger exercises.
Visiting a physical therapist is an extremely helpful and informative way to treat trigger finger. Similar to the exercises discussed above a therapist will walk you through ways to increase your hand and fingers mobility. Releasing the tension will help to cure your trigger finger, this is done through different exercises and stretches.
These conservative and natural treatment options are great for mild cases of trigger finger, or people who have recently discovered their trigger finger. We also recommend icing, heating, and anti-inflammatory medications as forms of treatment. If you are finding no relief in conservative remedies consulting with your doctor may be the next best solution.
If you visit with a doctor about your trigger finger, injection therapy will most likely be used as your first line of treatment. Doctors generally do one to two rounds of steroid injections prior to considering the idea of surgery. The steroid is injected into your flexor sheath and is one of the most common forms of treatment. The affected area is injected with the steroid in the hopes that it will reduce inflammation.
There are two main types of trigger finger or thumb surgery: open and percutaneous. Both of these procedures involve the doctor releasing, or splitting the A1 pulley through which the tendon is having trouble passing. The difference between these trigger finger surgeries is how the doctor goes about doing so.
Speak with your doctor about which surgery is the best option for you.
Open surgery for trigger thumb or finger pain: With open surgery, the doctor uses a local or regional anesthetic to deaden the hand or arm. Then he or she will make a small incision to open up the hand to widen the tendon sheath. The surgeon will then close the wound with stitches and will cover the area with a bandage. Talk to your doctor about using a brace in the healing process post surgery.
Percutaneous surgery for trigger thumb or finger: In percutaneous trigger finger surgery, instead of making an incision in your palm, the doctor will use a needle to break apart the blockage in the tendon sheath. Only a local anesthetic is usually needed and in some cases this procedure can be done in the doctor’s office, helping to avoid high costs of surgery. This surgery is higher risk as the surgeon loses their view of the pulley.
Movement of the finger is possible and even recommended very soon after trigger finger surgery, although you should take precaution about the type of movement. You should perform trigger finger exercises post surgery with the main focus on improving range of motion.
You can engage in light daily activities, lifting, typing, writing, etc. in the first week following surgery so long as this is done in moderate doses. Pay close attention to the swelling you’re experiencing post-surgery. Listen to your body, if you are swelling from specific exercises or activities then rest. Many doctors will recommend splinting after surgery with something like this soft hand splint. Driving should not be a problem after trigger finger or thumb surgery and over the counter medications should be effective in reducing pain.
Trigger finger surgery recovery time varies based on each individual but is typically pretty quick. For open surgery, it usually takes four to six weeks to get back to unrestricted motion, while those who have had percutaneous trigger finger release will have a shorter recovery time, as there will be no wound in the palm to heal.
Read here for more information on trigger finger surgery.
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