Inside each of your fingers is a cover or casing for compact groups of tendons that tie your bones and muscles together and allow free function of your hand. This area is generally tight when you are fully healthy, and can become severely constricted when your tendons swell beyond the boundaries of their protective casing. Such swelling can occur due to occupational or other activities that require repetitive force and gripping on a repeated basis as well as age and other degenerative and chronic conditions. If you experience discomfort when attempting to move your fingers or swelling in your palm or fingers, such as sudden finger immobility during use, a tender area in your palm, or the catching of your joints, you may have the trigger finger condition.

In order to avoid surgery, intake of non-prescription, anti-inflammatory medications or steroid injections to reduce swelling may be pursued by your provider first. Other options are to treat the area with ice or heat, splinting, regular finger exercises or extended rest in which you avoid grabbing, clenching or similar finger motions. The best treatment option for you will depend upon how long you’ve had trigger finger release and the severity of your condition.

While trigger finger does not pose immediate health dangers, if your condition is not responding to nonsurgical treatments and your symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend trigger finger release surgery. Those who require surgery will undergo a short outpatient procedure in which the casing surrounding the tendons is reduced to create an opening for tendon movement and release the swollen tendons. This is accomplished through an incision in the palm or via needle trip that slices the sheath of the tendon, thus allowing it to heal to a point where the tendon has sufficient room to move within a more spacious sheath. With a wider tunnel opening provided through surgery, tendon movement is smoother and less inhibited and side effects and wound pain are minimized.

Did You Know? Trigger finger is one of the most common forms of repetitive strain injury in the U.S. today, and is prominent among diabetics, women, and the elderly. Those who work in occupations that require frequent gripping or involve repeated trauma to certain areas of the body also report higher incidences of trigger finger than those in other industries. While nonsurgical treatments are available, those who undergo the procedure report a 90-100% success rate and a small (3%) rate of recurrence.

While most patients experience palm soreness immediately after the procedure, finger movement is also not generally restricted after surgery. To combat pain and inflammation, those recovering from surgery will often raise their hand above their heart, and regular finger exercises and physical therapy will help avoid finger stiffness. Complete recovery and complete finger usage occurs within two or more weeks, however stiffness and swelling may persist for up to 6 months after the surgery.