Trigger finger is a common condition caused by the inability of the tendon in the palm of the hand to glide freely within its sheath (protective covering). This is thought to be caused by either thickening of the tendon or narrowing of the sheath due to inflammation.
Work or recreational activities which require repetitive or sustained gripping put pressure on the tendon and sheath at the base of the fingers or thumb. This may irritate the tendon or the sheath which results in thickening of the tissue. Trigger finger is more common in females and most frequently in people between 40-60 years old. It can also occur in toddlers, where it is a painless condition with the thumb becoming fixed in a bent position.
Symptoms usually begin with pain at the base of the finger or thumb with clicking that can worsen after periods of inactivity, and tend to loosen with movement. If the condition progresses the finger or thumb can become locked in a bent position and must be straightened using the opposite hand.
Treatment initially entails limiting the aggravating activities and may involve using a splint to limit movement of the tendon and reduce swelling. This splintage is usually continuous and can be necessary for 6 weeks or longer. Your doctor may also suggest a steroid injection, which is a strong anti-inflammatory, to reduce the swelling. If symptoms persist or if the finger is locked, surgery is recommended. In infants most cases resolve spontaneously, however if not corrected by 3 years of age surgery is advised.