Causes Of Trigger Thumb Or Finger? Its Symptoms And Treatment

Trigger thumb is a condition which results when the tendon that is attached to the thumb bone becomes inflamed or lumpy. It also occurs when the sheath that surrounds the tendon becomes narrow. The resultant effect is locking or jamming of the tendon as it glides inside the tendon sheath. To make it clear, the thumb becomes locked when it is bent or flexed, and it straightens up with a click which is often audible.

Compare this action with a trigger being pulled and released. For this reason it is also called trigger thumb. The same pathology can occur in any finger. Medically trigger thumb or finger is called stenosing tenosynovitis.

Trigger thumb or finger is a painful condition and most often the pain is experienced at the base of the thumb or the affected finger. It is more in morning hours. The condition is common in children and people above the age of 40 years.

The exact reason behind trigger finger or thumb is not clear but often repetitive movements, trauma and systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis are blamed. Treatment is most often conservative but when it becomes severe, surgical option is always sought to relieve the symptoms.

Causes And Risk Factors For Trigger Thumb

The cause for trigger thumb is narrowing of the tendon sheath. Once the sheath through which the tendon passes becomes narrow, it is difficult for the tendon to glide smoothly to bend or straighten your thumb or finger. This may cause the thumb to get locked in bent position and may produce a click sound when it abruptly straightens up. With each catch, the tendon also becomes irritated, inflamed and scarred producing bumps and nodule.

Following are the risk factors:

Repeated gripping: repeated and forceful use of thumb and finger can cause trigger thumb.  Example is wringing wash cloth or griping a power tool for too long or gripping a musical instrument of long hours.

Systemic diseases: people are prone to trigger thumb and finger when they are suffering from rheumatic arthritis, diabetes, and hypothyroidism.

Trigger Thumb Symptoms

The symptoms appear gradually. At first they are mild but as time passes the symptoms become severe.

  • Stiffness of thumb, especially after getting up in morning.
  • Soreness and pain at the base of the thumb while gripping an object.
  • Classic popping or clicking of thumb with every thumb movement (bending and straightening).
  • The locked thumb in bent position may require assistance of other hand for its straightening.

Generally the hand that is used more is first to get affected.

Treatment Options And Home Remedies For Trigger Thumb

The treatment of trigger thumb depends on the severity and how long the problem exists in a patient. Most of the cases require conservative line of treatment. This include anti inflammatory and pain reliever drugs. Often doctors advise the patient to wear a splint to the thumb for one to two months. It gives rest to the thumb. Physiotherapy exercise of thumb is also effective in reducing the symptoms of trigger thumb and finger.

Injecting steroids locally in the affected area of the thumb is often advised by orthopedic surgeons. The injection at local site may not be effective in diabetic and patient suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Surgery may be thought of only when the condition is severe and when all other modes of treatment fail to heal trigger thumb.

Certain home remedies are also effective:

  • Avoid doing work which requires repetitive grasping and gripping of objects.
  • Massage to the thumb and finger joint. It will reduce the pain.
  • Hot water fomentation in morning reduces morning stiffening and catching of thumb throughout the day.
  • Acupressure and acupuncture are alternative therapies that are found very effective in treating trigger thumb and finger.
  • For repetitive motion injuries, researchers have found vitamin B6 to be an effective solution. Patient can take either B6 supplement or foods that are rich in vitamin B6. Chicken, turkey, fish, spinach, potatoes, green peas, broccoli, asparagus are rich source of vitamin B6.

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