Trigger finger and thumb

What is it?  

Trigger finger or thumb is a common disorder characterized by snapping, catching or locking of the finger flexor tendon leading into the palm of the hand. Sometimes there is also a reduced ability to bend the finger. It is commonly associated with pain in the palm; a tender, palpable bump at the base of the affected digit, and a reduction in hand use. 

It is often caused by overuse of the finger tendons involved in repetitive or forceful gripping but can be more common with some other conditions such as diabetes, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis 

It is usual to be more aware of it first thing in the morning, and then again through the day on gripping or straightening the finger or thumb involved.

How to manage it?  

If this is a new problem that you can relate to overdoing a task, a short course of non–steroidal anti-inflammatories (e.g. Ibuprofen either in tablet form or gel that you rub in) can help.  Follow the instructions on the packet and discuss with a pharmacist if you are unsure if ibuprofen is suitable for you. 

If this is a persistent problem, applying heat using warm (not too hot) water several times throughout the day may help.    

The use of a splint that stops the tendon from moving so far that it catches may help manage the symptoms.   Splints worn on the palm of the hand that restrict movement of the MCP / big knuckle of the finger are the most useful design of splint and are available on line.  These are also suitable for a trigger thumb. 

How to prevent it and manage flare ups? 

Avoiding overuse of hand can help prevent trigger finger or thumb.  

If you begin to experience stiffness and swelling in your fingers, rest your hand and try alternating activities to keep your fingers from becoming inflamed.