A few weeks ago I woke up and noticed the middle finger on my left hand was bent as if I was bent playing an F# on the D string. I had to consciously straighten it out, and with that it clicked back open. I bent it again and it stayed in that position until I straightened it out again with that same clicking. By mid morning it was functioning normally again, but the finger remained a bit sore between the two knuckles in the middle of the finger. Over the next few days it subsided. The last few days it is back, and today I noticed it slightly in my right middle finger as well, but to a lesser degree.
I Googled my middle finger locks and found that what I am experiencing is Trigger Finger. Trigger finger is a condition in which one of the fingers gets stuck in a bent position. The finger may bend or straighten with a snap — like a trigger being pulled and released.
Trigger finger is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis (stuh-NO-sing ten-o-sin-o-VIE-tis). It occurs when inflammation narrows the space within the sheath that surrounds the tendon in the affected finger. If trigger finger is severe, the finger may become locked in a bent position.
People whose work or hobbies require repetitive gripping actions are at higher risk of developing trigger finger. Constantly labeling jars for our home business, a lot of computer work, and playing the fiddle are three strikes against me when it comes to developing trigger finger. I also just found out in a Thanksgiving Day call to my brother that my mother suffered from trigger finger; it can run in families, as well.
I wasn’t planning to post about it until I read how common this condition is, especially in older folks and people who play the violin.
Here is a brief, but very good, video describing trigger finger.
Conservative noninvasive treatments include:
- Rest: Avoid activities that require repetitive gripping, repeated grasping until symptoms improve.
- A splint: A doctor can prescribe a splint to be worn at night to keep the affected finger in an extended position. The splint helps rest the tendon. A splint can also be purchased without a prescription.
- Stretching exercises: Gentle exercises can help maintain mobility in the finger.
If these treatments fail, the next steps are more invasive and include:
- Steroid injection: This may reduce inflammation and allow the tendon to glide freely again, but the results seldom last more than a year.
- Percutaneous release: With the hand numbed, the Doctor inserts a sturdy needle into the tissue around the affected tendon and breaks apart the constriction.
- Surgery: The most extreme treatment, the Doctor can cut open the constricted section of tendon sheath.
Wanting to get the upper hand (pun intended) on this, I ordered two splints, one to wear during the day that will allow flexibility and one to wear at night that will immobilize and relax the tendon.
I am also starting some gentle stretching exercises I found on Healthline.com: 11 Trigger Finger Exercises to Try at Home. These are simple exercises that can be done anywhere. Many of these exercises are ones I have already posted about in several earlier posts about hand problems (see Overcoming Obstacles), but I will admit, I do get lax in keeping up these routines. Perhaps avoiding trigger finger is just another reason to get back into my hand flexibility routine.