Trigger finger or stenosing tenosynovitis can affect the thumb and any other finger. The problem may occur on one or both hands. But, what will happen if a trigger finger is not treated? Trigger finger affects the tendons making it difficult to bend the affected thumb or finger. If the tendon or tendon sheath of the affected hand gets inflamed and swollen, the tendon gets irritated and “catches” in the tendon sheath resulting in a clicking sensation.
What is Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger refers to a condition that causes one or more fingers to get stuck in a bent position. Usually, the affected finger straightens or bends with a snap similar to an actual trigger being pulled and released. It occurs when the space within the sheath that surrounds the tendon of a finger becomes inflamed. Cases of severe trigger finger are the ones that result in the affected finger getting locked in a bent position.
Trigger finger can affect anyone, but it is more common in people whose jobs involve repetitive gripping actions like industrial workers, musicians, and farmers. It is also more common in women than men. You are also at a higher risk of developing trigger finger if you are between the age of 40 and 60.
What are the Symptoms of Trigger Finger?
The symptoms of trigger finger progress from mild to severe if left untreated. They include the following:
- Stiffness in one or more fingers, especially in the morning
- A clicking or popping sensation when you move the affected finger
- A bump or tenderness in the palm at the base of the affected finger
- The affected finger catches or locks in a bent position that pops straight suddenly
- In severe cases, the finger becomes locked in a bent position, unable to straighten again
- Pain at the base of the finger, and if the condition worsens, you may feel pain in the hand even when it’s still
Trigger finger is more pronounced in the morning when you straighten your fingers or grab something.
What Will Happen if a Trigger Finger is Not Treated?
For some people, trigger finger improves over time without any treatment. However, in severe cases, if you don’t treat the condition, your finger may become permanently bent, making it difficult to perform some tasks. If you suspect you may have a case of trigger finger, see a doctor for a solution.
A few treatment options are available for trigger finger. Your doctor may recommend any of the following:
- Rest from certain activities that involve repetitive motions
- Medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to manage the pain
- The doctor may recommend a trigger finger splint whereby the affected finger is strapped to a splint to minimise movement
- The doctor may give steroids to reduce swelling and inflammation
If these treatments don’t work, your doctor may recommend surgery for trigger finger on the affected hand. Surgery usually aims to release the A1 pulley at the base of the affected finger allowing the tendon to move freely again. The doctor works through a small incision at the base of the finger.
You’ll need to take 2 to 4 weeks off work to recover if you do manual work. It’s possible to experience some swelling and soreness in your palm. Although the incision will heal after a few weeks, the swelling and stiffness may take up to 6 months to go away. If the pain, swelling and stiffness continue, your doctor will recommend seeing a hand therapist.
If you’re worried about what will happen if a trigger finger is left untreated, it’s important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible to create a treatment plan.
Book an appointment today at the Harley Clinic, London, if you suspect you may have trigger finger.