I Think I Have a Trigger Thumb. What Do I Do About It?
If you think you have a Trigger thumb, we recommend reading the blog titled “My thumb hurts - What’s wrong?” first. The section on Trigger thumb may help to confirm your suspicion or direct you to consider if you might have another condition. It is important that you have an understanding of what may be wrong before even thinking about what to do about it. If you have read “My thumb hurts - What’s wrong”, welcome back.
There are other problems that can cause thumb pain and popping or clicking and each condition is different and needs to be properly diagnosed before it can be treated. Diagnosis is best done by your physician or a therapist who specializes in treating hand conditions. The information in this blog is meant to be discussed with your doctor or therapist so they can guide you in choosing the most appropriate and safe treatment.
Trigger Thumb - as with several of the conditions discussed previously, Trigger Thumb is an inflammatory process. When the tendons that flex or bend the thumb become enlarged they can catch or snap as they move the thumb. The earlier treatment is started, the better chance that the triggering can be relieved with conservative treatment.
Intermittent icing and a proper dosage of anti-inflammatory medicines are important and should be started as soon as possible. If the problem is severe and has progressed to the point where the tendon locks the thumb in a bent position, a steroid injection to reduce the inflammation may be required. If the problem persists, surgery may be recommended to loosen the tendon sheath (covering) and restore motion.
Splinting is important to limit the range of motion of the thumb in order to allow the tendon to rest. A splint that limits motion allows the tendon to rest. What is most important with Trigger Thumb is to prevent the tendon from moving to the point where is snaps or clicks. This can be accomplished with a hand-based or finger-based splint.
It is important to wear the splint until the symptoms are completely gone. Continuing to use a splint at night after an injection or surgery can be very helpful as a “retainer” to prevent clenching the finger into a fist at night.
For additional information on triggering, see our conditions page on “Trigger Finger”, which also includes a helpful graphic.
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