Trigger Thumb is inflammation of the tendon(s) that flex or bend your thumb. The tendons act as cords that pull your fingers down into a fist and then relax as you straighten the fingers. Think of the tendon as a line on a fishing rod and the pulleys as the eyelets that keep the line in contact with the rod as it bends and straightens. A knot in the line may make the line catch as it is pulled through the eyelet. If the knot keeps getting larger or the pulley gets tighter, eventually it will be too large to slide back in the other direction and the line will be stuck. That is what happens to the tendons. They simply get too large to move back and forth through the pulleys.
The causes of trigger thumb are rheumatoid arthritis, gout, diabetes or an injury to the base of your thumb. More often than not, the cause is unknown.
Symptoms of Trigger Thumb
- A “popping” pain when you bend or straighten the end of your thumb
- Your thumb sticks in a bent position and in severe cases has to be pulled straight
- You feel tenderness when you press on the base of your thumb
Trigger Thumb is an inflammatory condition. The earlier treatment is started, the better chance that the triggering can be relieved.
Icing and anti-inflammatory medicines are important and should be started as soon as possible. If your problem is severe and has progressed to the point where your thumb locks in a bent position, a steroid injection may be needed to reduce the inflammation. If your problem persists, surgery may be recommended to restore motion.
With Trigger Thumb, it’s very important to prevent the tendon from moving to the point where it snaps or clicks. Using a splint or brace can help limit motion and allow your thumb to rest. This can be done with a finger splint, such as an Oval-8 Finger Splint. Please view our video “How to treat a Trigger Finger with an Oval-8 Finger Splint” for more information.
It is important to wear your splint until your symptoms are completely gone. Continuing to use a splint at night after an injection or surgery can also be very helpful to prevent clenching your thumb into a fist at night.
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