By Marianne Pilgrim, OTR/L, CHT
The tendon that moves each finger is surrounded by a sheath (tenosynovium) that keeps the tendon lubricated. Both the tendon and sheath pass under ligaments that form a tunnel known as the A1 pulley. Trigger finger occurs when inflammation or a nodule prevents the tendon from moving smoothly through the tunnel. The tendon can get stuck, and when it is finally released, the finger snaps like a trigger. This release is usually quite painful.
Symptoms of trigger finger may include the following: swelling on the palm side of the involved finger; a painful nodule on the palm; pain with movement or heavy gripping; joint stiffness; painful popping and clicking while bending and straightening the finger; and if left untreated, the inability to fully straighten the finger due to locking.
Trigger finger generally affects people between 40 and 60 years of age, and women more often than men. The condition may result when repetitive or sustained gripping with fingers or pinching with the thumb causes inflammation of a tendon and its sheath. A history of the following diseases may be associated with an increased risk of trigger finger: diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, hypothyroidism, and Dupuytren’s disease.