A trigger finger is a serious medical condition that can affect one or more fingers, characterized by a finger getting “stuck” in a half-bent position. Most often, trigger finger affects the thumb or ring finger; however, it can affect any finger. Some may even experience trigger finger injury in both hands. The physiological reason for trigger finger is often swelling of the tendons in the hand. Eventually, the tendon becomes too large to fit in the tendon sheath, preventing it from moving properly. However, identifying the signs and symptoms of trigger fingers is not always easy.
Common Symptoms of Trigger Finger
Trigger finger, like other medical conditions, affects everyone a little differently. Thus, there is no universal set of symptoms that everyone will experience. However, there are a few common symptoms of trigger fingers that anyone experiencing pain in their hand or fingers should know about.
- Finger stiffness;
- A “clicking” sensation when moving the affected finger;
- Tenderness in the palm at the base of the affected finger;
- An inability to freely move the affected finger;
- A recognizable bump at the palm of the hand, near the base of the finger; and
- The finger locking in place in a bent position.
Sometimes, after a finger becomes “locked” in a bent position, it will suddenly straighten out without any effort. However, it is not uncommon for a finger to remain in the bent position for an extended period of time.
Causes of Trigger Finger
Trigger fingers can be caused by various underlying issues. Some cases of trigger finger relate to other underlying medical conditions. Others, however, are the result of environmental factors, meaning how someone uses their hands. Below are a few common causes of trigger fingers.
Arthritis is a common inflammatory disease targeting the joints. Those who suffer from arthritis are more likely to develop trigger fingers, as arthritis can affect the fingers, resulting in inflammation of the tendons or the tendon sheaths.
Of course, age isn’t a cause of any medical condition. However, studies have shown that trigger finger most often affects those over 40. This suggests that the trigger finger is a WEAR and TEAR injury.
More women suffer from trigger fingers than men. Doctors believe this is due to the body’s production of estrogen, which may be linked to an increased likelihood of developing trigger fingers. Thus, those who suffer from a hormonal disorder may also have a greater chance of experiencing trigger finger.
Some medications that impact the body’s metabolism can increase the chances of a trigger-finger diagnosis.
Those who frequently engage in the same movements of the hand are more likely to develop trigger fingers. This is due to the repeated strain put on the fingers, hands, and wrists. For example, an office worker who spends hours a day typing may develop a trigger finger. Workers who type a lot should consider a wrist rest that prevents their hands from resting on the keyboard. Similarly, construction workers who frequently use the same high-powered tools are at a greater risk of developing trigger fingers. This is due to the constant vibrations these tools send through the hands, which, over time, can cause WEAR and TEAR on the tendons.
What Is the Best Way to Treat Trigger Finger?
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for locking finger joints. Typically, your doctor will try non-invasive methods first. What causes a finger to lock up may also dictate the treatment plan.
Five Common Non-Invasive Treatments
There are five common non-invasive treatment options your doctor will likely recommend. Your doctor may recommend you try several non-invasive treatments.
The best treatment for any overuse injury is rest. By resting your fingers and hand, you may be able to heal your trigger finger. Avoiding the activity that causes you to use repetitive gripping or extensive use of your finger is imperative. However, depending on your job duties, this may be next to impossible.
Wear a Splint or Padded Glove
If you cannot rest the finger completely, wearing a splint or padded glove may help ease the strain. Often, wearing a splint at night to keep your finger outstretched can help with trigger finger pain and symptoms.
Pain Medications or Anti-inflammatories
Your doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs or pain medications to help relieve pain and inflammation. Ibuprofen and aspirin are two commonly recommended over-the-counter medications for trigger finger.
Applying ice or a cold compress can reduce swelling and decrease pain associated with your finger joints locking. Your doctor will likely recommend you apply ice in 15-minute increments to avoid any negative effects of cold treatment.
Finger and Hand Exercises and Stretches
At-home hand exercises or stretches can help reduce stiffness and improve mobility. Your doctor may even recommend seeking professional physical therapy and rehabilitation.
Should these five non-invasive treatments not work, your doctor may recommend you move on to more invasive treatment.
More Invasive Treatment Options
There are several invasive treatments your doctor may recommend to treat your trigger finger. These treatments range from minimally invasive injections to surgical procedures.
Your doctor might recommend corticosteroid injections to treat severe trigger finger symptoms.
Corticosteroid injections are designed to help relieve pain and inflammation in joints, including the smallest joints in your hands and feet.
Generally, the doctor will inject the corticosteroid into the tendon sheath at the base of the affected thumb or finger with a small needle. Usually, these injections contain anti-inflammatory medication as well as a local anesthetic. The benefits of corticosteroid injections can last for a year or longer, and they might be an excellent alternative to long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen.
Finally, as a last resort, if all other treatments fail, you may need to consider surgical repair. There are generally two types of trigger finger surgeries: Open release surgery and percutaneous release surgery. Which surgery is right for you will depend on the exact circumstances and extent of your injury.
Recovering Workers’ Compensation After a WEAR and TEAR Injury
Sometimes, a trigger-finger diagnosis is unavoidable given your past medical history, age, and other related conditions. However, in other cases, someone develops a trigger finger due to the conditions of their job. In the case of the latter, a worker may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits can cover the costs of all necessary medical treatment as well as provide income benefits for those who cannot work due to their injuries.
The workers’ compensation system is a program that allows employees suffering from work-related injuries to obtain compensation. To bring a workers’ compensation claim, you do not need to show that your employer was negligent or otherwise at fault for your injuries. Similarly, your employer won’t be able to avoid paying for your benefits by arguing that there were things you could have done to avoid a trigger-finger diagnosis (such as using a wrist guard).
However, the biggest hurdle employees face when seeking workers’ compensation benefits for a WEAR and TEAR injury like trigger finger is connecting their injury with their employment. Employers and their insurance companies will look for ways to avoid paying workers’ compensation benefits. Often, this involves claiming that an employee’s injuries were caused by something other than their job duties. Thus, it is imperative for anyone who is considering a workers’ compensation case to reach out to an experienced workers’ compensation law firm for assistance with their claim.
Trust Petro Cohen for Your WEAR and TEAR Claim
At Petro Cohen, P.C., we understand that, over time, the physical demands of your job can take a toll on your body. We call these types of workers’ comp cases WEAR and TEAR because they develop slowly over time.
Unfortunately, many workers don’t know they qualify for compensation for their trigger finger or other WEAR and TEAR injuries because they develop slowly over time. They may be told they are “just getting older,” or that workers’ compensation only covers injuries caused by accidents. At Petro Cohen, P.C., we know better.
WEAR and TEAR injuries, including several different types of injuries resulting from repetitive, forceful, and/or awkward movements. In order for a workplace injury to be compensable under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation law, it does not have to be a sudden, acute injury. In other words, an injury does not have to occur in a sudden workplace accident in order for you to receive workers’ compensation benefits. There are other types of injuries that occur over time that may be just as debilitative as acute injury.
If you suffer from a workplace WEAR and TEAR injury, such as a trigger finger, don’t go it alone. Trust Petro Cohen, P.C. to help you navigate the workers’ comp claim and to successfully help you receive the medical treatment you need and the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.