RSI: Trigger Finger (Stenosing tenosynovitis)
You don’t have to be a firearms enthusiast to feel the effects of trigger finger. The name stems more from the symptoms than the causality, as trigger finger can lock one of your digits in a curled position, like the finger posture required to operate a firearm. All that is needed to develop trigger finger is a job or hobby that requires repetitive gripping tasks. As you can guess, this leaves office workers at risk, especially those who use a computer 6+ hours a day.
What is Trigger Finger?
Medically known as stenosing tenosynovitis, trigger finger is classified as a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). A tendon in the finger usually glides easily through the sheath made of soft tissues thanks to the synovium, a membrane that surrounds joints and keeps them lubricated. Trigger finger is caused when the sheath is irritated and inflamed which impedes the finger’s ability to bend and straighten. Long-term irritation of the tendon sheath can lead to scarring and thickening that affect the tendon’s motion. When this happens, bending your finger or thumb pulls the inflamed tendon through a narrowed sheath and makes it snap or pop. When you think of a trigger finger, most would assume it would affect the pointer finger, but that’s just not true. Trigger finger can pop up in any digit, including the thumb (called trigger thumb), and can affect more than one finger simultaneously.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of trigger finger usually start off mildly and worsen over time. Symptoms include:
A painful clicking or snapping when you bend or straighten your finger. The longer the finger is in a fixed position, the worse the symptom is.
Stiffness in your finger, especially in the morning
Soreness or a bump at the base of the finger or thumb.
A popping or clicking as you move your finger.
A locked finger that you can’t straighten.
None of these symptoms sound particularly great, especially for those who rely on repetitive, small movements throughout the day while actively gripping a computer mouse.
Am I at risk?
While there are a variety of risk factors to account for. Although the biggest factor in developing trigger finger is forceful, repetitive motions in the fingers. The other main risk factors to pay attention to are:
It usually shows up between ages 40 and 60.
It’s more common in women than men.
Diabetes, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis can lead to trigger finger.
It’s common among office workers, industrial workers, musicians, and anyone else who repeats finger and thumb movements.
Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s most common in the first 6 months after your operation. That’s right! Trigger finger can be an added bonus for those who develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
How to Treat Trigger Finger
If caught in the initial stages, those who suffer from trigger finger can usually avoid surgery with these doctor-prescribed treatments:
Rest is key. You may need to take a break from the activity or activities that are causing the issues.
Splints. Your doctor can give you one designed to keep your finger still.
Gentle stretching exercises.
Over-the-counter drugs that can help fight inflammation such as ibuprofen.
Steroid injections. They might give you a steroid shot into the tendon sheath. It can keep your symptoms at bay for a year or more, but you could need two shots to get results.