Trigger finger (or thumb) is medically known as Stenosing Tenosynovitis. Sounds complicated, but what it means is that the tendons that move the fingers have become inflammed. Because these tendons must pass through a tunnel (the tendon sheath) in order for them to do their job, the inflammation in the area creates a blockage. Pain, stiffness and locking of the digits after bending are all common symptoms which cause discomfort.
The positive news is that trigger finger is very treatable, but how did it occur in the first place?
Most commonly it is because of repetitive strain on the tendons. Activities such as prolonged computer and mouse work, mobile phone usage and too many hours playing your favourite video games are the usual culprits. Another common cause of trigger finger is continuous gripping (especially with weight i.e. lifting and carrying heavy loads) leading to added strain on the flexor tendons of the hand.
Stenosing tenosynovitis most frequently occurs in women and people with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis are considered to have a worse prognosis in terms of rehabilitation.
So how is it treated?
Conservative management from both your doctor and your physiotherapist includes:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: Relieve pain and decrease swelling.
- Rest: Removing the repetitive strain and actions allows the area to heal.
- Ice/Heat: Ice is traditionally used to decrease inflammation, though some people feel more relief by applying moist heat to the area as prolonged inflammation causes pain and stiffness, symptoms which are relieved by the heat.
- Electrotherapy/Laser/Ultrasound: Your physiotherapist may use one or a combination of these options in order to relieve pain, accelerate your body’s healing mechanisms and decreased the localised inflammation.