Column: Ouch, why is my finger stuck?


Commentary by Dr. Joseph Hui

A neighbor approached me the other day and asked if I could take a look at his hand. He reported that over the past few months, his finger has been getting stuck in a bent position making it difficult to straighten out. Initially, it started as a click or pop, but now it just seemed to get stuck. He also noticed some discomfort in the palm of his hand. From his recollection, there have been no injuries that would have caused this, and the frequency seems to be increasing, sometimes having to use his other hand to straighten his finger.

The proper term of this diagnosis is stenosing tenosynovitis, but it has been referred to as a “trigger finger” for ease. There’s an analogy I use in my clinic when describing this problem with my patients. Along the length of your finger and into your hand, there are short, segmented tunnels that guide the tendons responsible for bending your finger. These tunnels can become narrow due to inflammation. Think of your tendon as a train. If it passes through a tunnel that’s too narrow, it can get stuck. In the case of your tendon, it can cause your figure to do the same. If the finger is forced straight, the tendon is being forced through the narrow tunnel, causing significant pain.

There are a variety of ways to treat this disorder. The gold standard is through a surgical procedure, where a small incision is made in the hand to release the roof of the tunnel resulting in more room for the tendon to pass through. A non-surgical alternative that can be performed in the clinic includes using an ultrasound to guide a small needle through the tunnel to essentially make more room. A steroid injection also can provide short-term relief as opposed to the other options that are more definitive. If you’re experiencing trigger finger, consult with your physician about which option is best for you.

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