Trigger Finger / Trigger Thumb
People with trigger finger often wake up in the morning with the involved digit(s) stuck down against the palm of their hand. Pulling it straight causes a significant amount of pain. Once the finger warms up it may move better, but there is a painful locking/clicking. Forceful gripping may also be painful. Splinting may prevent the finger from bending and catching, but usually doesn’t provide significant long-term cure.
Trigger Finger Release
Less commonly, the finger can get stuck straight. In these cases, bending the finger is difficult and there is pain and tenderness at the palm of the hand near the base of the finger. In very early cases, the fingers simply feel ‘slow’ or ‘sluggish’ in the morning.
To make an analogy: If you were driving a truck that got stuck under a bridge, the first step to solving the problem would be to let some air out of the tire to decrease the height. For triggering, a steroid injection is helpful because it can create more space by decreasing inflammation and thinning the tendon lining. This gives the tendon more room to get through the tunnel. If you catch triggering early, a steroid injection can be curative. After 4-6 months the chance of an injection permanently curing the condition is lower, but still worth a try.
If the trigger finger returns following an injection, subsequent injections often have “diminishing returns”, meaning they won’t work as well or last as long. If two injections fail, further injections will not work.
Fortunately, there is a quick, minimally-invasive outpatient surgery that is extremely effective. The Trigger Finger Release (or Trigger Thumb Release) is done through a small incision. The tight area of the tunnel that is compressing the tendon is released and the wound closed. To use our previous example, this is analogous to ‘raising the bridge’ to allow the truck to get through. This is a very successful operation, and is almost always a permanent cure.
After surgery, keep the hand clean and dry for 24 hours, and then showering is allowed. Avoid getting the wound dirty or submerging the hand under water for 10 days. There’s a piece of special tape over the wound. The longer it stays, the nicer the wound will look. It’ll fall off when it’s ready. There are no stitches to remove. I recommend avoiding heavy activities like lifting and gripping for 2 weeks after surgery, in order to minimize post-operative pain. If you overdo it, a steroid injection is usually very helpful in decreasing inflammation.