What Is Trigger Finger?

At the University of Virginia, Dr. Bobby Chhabra serves as the chair of orthopedic surgery and the division head of hand and upper-extremity surgery. During his distinguished career, Dr. Bobby Chhabra has treated the full gamut of hand and upper-extremity conditions, including stenosing tenosynovitis, also known as trigger finger.

A painful condition, trigger finger is characterized by a finger or thumb locking while bent. The finger will then straighten out suddenly as if a trigger has been pulled and released. Trigger finger is caused by an inflammation of the tendons in a finger. Normally, each tendon glides smoothly through the sheath that covers it when the fingers move. However, an inflamed tendon can prevent this smooth movement, and each “catch” of the triggering finger worsens the problem and can lead to scarring and thickening of the tendon.

While the cause of trigger finger is often unknown, risk factors include being female, being over 40, making repeated gripping movements with the fingers, and having conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, and rheumatoid arthritis.

This condition can often be corrected with noninvasive measures, such as splinting the finger in a neutral position to prevent movement and inflammation. Avoiding repetitive movements that strain the fingers may also help reverse the condition. In more severe cases, steroid injections in the affected area or surgery to release the tendon may be recommended.

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