What will happen if a trigger finger is not treated?

If a trigger finger is not treated then over time your finger may start locking up, and then could become stuck. Most people don’t get to this point, but I have occasionally seen a locked finger in my time as an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs. Trigger fingers normally don’t start out locked up, but if you ignore it for a long period of time it will start to become locked up in the morning, then during the day, and then all the time. A finger that gets stuck locked up for a long period of time will cause joint contractures and could result in a permanently stuck finger. The good news is that trigger finger is very treatable, and a permanently stuck finger from trigger finger is very rare.

What is a trigger finger?

Your hand has many tendons that start off in your forearm and then attach to your fingers so you can move them. There are two tendons that allow your fingers to flex, and they run through a number of pulleys. Trigger finger is when the tendons that flex your finger get stuck at the first pulley called the A1 pulley. Normally your tendons glide nice and smooth, but in trigger finger they start getting stuck at the first pulley. This is caused by something called tenosynovitis, which occurs at the level of the A1 pulley and causes the blockage.

How do I know if I have a trigger finger?

The most common symptom is pain on the palm of your hand about a centimeter away from the finger that is bothering you. If you press down on this area and you have a trigger finger, it normally hurts. As your trigger finger progresses, you can have a finger that gets stuck in a bent position and then springs open with a little effort. Trigger finger can also cause pain in the back of the finger and hand in some instances.

How can I get rid of my trigger finger?

The best way to get rid of your trigger finger is from a steroid injection which can cure it about 70% of the time. I frequently give trigger finger steroid injections as an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs. For those who don’t want an injection, there are some stretches you can do such as the ones in this video. If the first steroid injection doesn’t work, then you can always try another one. But if you are still having pain and triggering after a few injections, then it makes sense to get your trigger finger surgically released. A trigger finger surgical release is when the A1 pulley is cut. This surgery has a very high success rate and is done frequently.

I hope I was able to answer your questions about what will happen if a trigger finger is not treated. If you still have any questions or want to schedule an in person or virtual consult, please feel free to contact me.

-Written by Dr. Daniel Paull

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