What Causes Trigger Finger to Flare Up?

A trigger finger can cause pain and discomfort in any of your fingers or your thumb. Unfortunately, most, if not all, people require treatment of some sort to resolve the issue and reduce the pain. One or more trigger fingers can reduce the function of your hand, which can impact your ability to work, enjoy recreational activities, or even complete daily tasks.

To understand what causes a trigger finger flare-up, it is important to know what happens to cause a trigger finger to develop and the impact the injury has on the anatomy of your hand’s muscles, tendons, and bones.

What Causes a Trigger Finger?

A trigger finger develops because the tendons that flex the fingers and the thumb are affected by inflammation and thickening. Inside the hands, you have flexor tendons that are attached to the muscle and bone. As muscle contracts, it pulls the bones of the finger and thumb using the flexor tendons, which causes the fingers to bend.

The flexor tendons pass through a tubular structure called a tendon sheath. This surrounds the tendon and helps it to function. Each tendon has a sheath and moves within the sheath. When you develop a trigger finger, the tendon sheath becomes inflamed and thickened so the tendon has a more difficult time passing through. You experience a sensation of catching or popping as the finger moves, which is often painful. The thickened tendon sheath makes it difficult and often painful to try to straighten the finger. In a severe case, the digit will lock and become stuck.

Sometimes, you can use the fingers on your other hand to straighten it manually, and in the worst case, it cannot be straightened without intervention from a hand specialist.

Causes of Trigger Finger Flare-Ups

Several factors increase the risk of developing trigger finger. These include medical conditions like diabetes, osteoarthritis, thyroid disease, amyloidosis, and rheumatoid arthritis that increase your risk of developing inflammation and thickening of the tendon sheath. Repetitive and forceful hand activities of your fingers and thumb can increase your risk of developing symptoms. This includes jobs or hobbies that require grasping, gripping, or applying force with your fingers or thumbs. For instance, playing an instrument, playing a racquet sport, or industrial work can increase your risk. Age is another factor, as it is more common in people between the ages of 40 and 60.

Conservative treatment can sometimes reduce the physical symptoms of pain and discomfort associated with trigger fingers. However, increased repetitive movement and strain on the tendon can also increase your risk of flare-up of the trigger finger.

How Is Trigger Finger Treated?

Treatment for a trigger finger usually begins with conservative options unless you arrive at the office with a severe trigger finger that cannot be straightened. Conservative treatment begins with rest, splints, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. Using conservative treatment can help reduce the potential need for surgical intervention, but if you choose to return to your previous level of activity, you can cause a trigger finger flare-up.

When conservative treatment is not enough, an experienced hand specialist may choose to use a needle procedure that breaks up the thickened tendon sheath and allows your tendon to move more smoothly.

If this is not successful, surgical intervention may be the only treatment that can restore function to your finger. During surgery, the tendon is released so it can move smoothly, and you regain function in your finger.

The procedure is typically done as an outpatient procedure through a small incision through the palm of your hand. You receive detailed instructions on movement and care for the incision after surgery. Follow these closely to reduce the risk of complications, including infection.

Call Today to Schedule a Consultation to Learn What Causes Trigger Finger to Flare Up

A trigger finger is painful and can be debilitating. If you are struggling with flare-ups and want to identify what causes your trigger finger or would like another treatment option, call our office today to schedule your consultation with our experienced and skilled hand surgeon.

Comprehensive Hand Surgery
Phone(804) 506-3050
2819 North Parham Road Richmond Suite 100, VA 23294 Get Directions