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At Slocum Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, our specialty-trained and experienced orthopedic hand and wrist surgeons are experts in treating trigger finger and are highly skilled in performing trigger finger release (also trigger finger surgery). Slocum Center doctors have been providing patients with progressive hand care, such as trigger finger release, for many years. In fact, they have helped hundreds of Eugene-area patients each year regain strength, flexibility, and function through their dedication and continuous research.

Trigger finger or trigger thumb involves the pulleys and tendons in the hand that bend the fingers. The tendons work like long ropes, connecting the muscles of the forearm with the bones of the fingers and thumb. In the finger, the pulleys are a series of rings that form a tunnel for the tendons, much like the guides for a line on a fishing rod. These pulleys hold the tendons close against the bone. The tendons and the tunnel have a slick lining that allows easy gliding of the tendon through the pulleys.

Trigger finger/thumb occurs when the pulley at the base of the finger becomes too thick and constricts the tendon, making it hard for the tendon to move freely through the pulley. Sometimes the tendon develops a knot or swelling of its lining. One may experience pain, popping, or a catching feeling in the finger or thumb. Sometimes, the finger becomes stuck or locked, making it hard to straighten or bend.

Cause

Some trigger fingers are associated with medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and diabetes. Local trauma to the palm or base of the finger may be a factor as well, but in most cases, there is not a clear cause.

Prevention

Overuse of the tendon may result in trigger finger. If pain occurs when doing such activities as using a computer, playing a musical instrument, or crocheting, rest the finger.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to eliminate the catching or locking, allowing full movement of the finger or thumb without discomfort. Swelling around the flexor tendon and tendon sheath must be reduced. Using a splint or taking an oral anti-inflammatory medication may help. Treatment may also include changing activities to reduce swelling. A steroid injection is often effective in relieving the trigger finger/thumb.

If nonsurgical forms of treatment do not relieve the symptoms, surgery may be recommended. This outpatient surgery opens the pulley at the base of the finger, so the tendon can glide more freely. Active motion of the finger generally begins immediately after surgery. Normal use of the hand can be resumed when comfortable. Some patients may feel tenderness and discomfort as well as experience swelling around the surgery area. Occasionally, hand therapy is required after surgery to improve function.

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