Trigger finger occurs when the space around the tendon of a finger becomes inflamed or swollen, making the affected finger snap when being straightened or bent. Severe trigger finger develops when the finger becomes stuck in bent position. Symptoms of trigger finger can include stiffness, popping, clicking sounds, locking or catching when bending or straightening the finger, tenderness in the palm below the affected finger and/or a bump or nodule in the palm below the affected finger.
Conservative treatment with an occupational therapist is recommended before surgery. This can include pain management, stretching to increase range of motion and light strengthening of affected fingers. If the trigger finger becomes severe enough, surgery is required to release the tendon. After surgery, an occupational therapist can help increase the range of motion, strength and functional use in the affected fingers as well as decrease edema (swelling), pain and scarring.
Treatment of trigger can include orthotics, physical agent modalities, exercise and activity/environment modification. Orthotics are used to achieve a specific range of motion, by holding the finger in a straightened position which has become limited because of the trigger finger symptoms. Physical agent modalities include applying heat with paraffin (a hot wax) or ultrasound to help reduce pain and stiffness. Exercises can include stretching to increase range of motion and strengthening to increase strength of the affected finger(s) and hand. Activity and environmental modifications include avoiding activities that produce pain in the hand, avoiding repetitive gripping or grasping and utilizing rest breaks before the pain is aggravated.
Langer, D., Luria, S., Maeir, A. & Erez, A. (2014). Occupation-based assessments and treatments of trigger finger: A survey of occupational therapists from Israel and the United States. Occupational Therapy International, 21, 143-155. Doi: 10.1002/oti.1372