I finally went to the clinic of my orthopedic doctor at Makati Medical Center yesterday to receive that much needed treatment for my trigger thumb, a steroid injection. First, the site of injection was sanitized with alcohol, then the local anesthesia was given (that hurt!), and finally the steroid was administered (a tiny prick was all I felt this time). The whole procedure was done in less than 10 minutes. It was that fast!
I started experiencing pain and discomfort in the thumb of my right hand a week before New Year 2021. What exactly was I feeling? My right thumb is always in a bent position. It’s hard to straighten it because doing so produces a clicking sound as if the bones are rubbing against each other. Now imagine the pain that goes with every movement of my thumb each time I am doing household chores and personal activities that require the use of my hands.
Not only was there a clicking sound in the thumb when straightening it or when making it go back to its original bent position, but there was also a lingering pain at the base of the thumb. Practically everything I do using my right hand is painful. The activities I usually perform without breaking a sweat– like cutting my nails, opening the faucet, wringing clothes while hand-washing, brushing our bathroom tiles, and even holding a bar of soap when showering – literally become agonizing.
I finally decided to consult an orthopedic doctor online last January 23, but before I did, I made a thorough online research of what exactly I was experiencing, and that’s where I found the term for it: trigger thumb.
According to Cleveland Clinic, a trigger thumb is a condition whereby the thumb gets stuck in a bent position. If it’s the other fingers, then it’s called trigger finger. The bent position of the thumb/finger resembles the act of “squeezing a trigger,” hence, the name trigger thumb/trigger finger. The thumb or finger is stiff and moving it produces a clicking, popping, or snapping sound. Another term for trigger thumb and trigger finger is stenosing tenosynovitis.
What Causes the Thumb/Finger to Be Stuck in a Bent Position?
We can move our thumb/fingers with the help of tendons. Tendons are tissues that join muscles to bones. Tendons glide easily because of tissues called sheaths. Our tendons become swollen when we have a trigger thumb/trigger finger. When tendons are inflamed, they can no longer slide through the sheaths. A nodule or bump may also form in the tendons which makes gliding through the sheaths even harder.
Who Are Susceptible to Trigger Thumb/Trigger Finger?
• People whose work or activities require strenuous repetitive movement of their thumb/fingers, like musicians or farmers
• People with diabetes, gout, or arthritis
• People between 40 and 60 years old
• More common in women than in men
After knowing about these facts, I realized I fall into all four categories listed above. First, when lockdown started last March 2020, the bulk of household chores fell on my shoulders. To avoid getting COVID from outside our home, we stopped sending our dirty clothes to the laundry shops. Instead, I handwashed all of them, including the towels, blankets, and bedsheets. Because I was washing our clothes once a week, it took me several hours to finish this task. This certainly put a lot of pressure on my thumb.
Second, we have a history of arthritis in the family. I also remember experiencing tendonitis of the elbow a few years ago, though, I’m not really sure if it has something to do with rheumatoid arthritis. I’m also in my late forties, so my age falls between the 40 to 60 range. Finally, my gender makes me more prone to it.
What Are the Symptoms of Trigger Thumb/Trigger Finger?
• Clicking, snapping, or popping sound when moving the thumb/finger
• Pain and stiffness of the thumb/finger
• Pain at the base of the thumb/finger, more noticeable when you grasp or grip
• Swelling or tenderness at the base of the finger
• Bent position of the thumb/finger that’s difficult to straighten
• With constant use of the hand, the stiffness diminishes
HHow to Treat Trigger Thumb/Trigger Finger?
• Rest the thumb/finger.
• Use a splint to prevent movement of the thumb/finger.
• Take anti-inflammatory drugs.
• Consider steroid injection.
• If condition recurs, surgery is recommended.
In my case, my ortho doctor didn’t ask me to rest my thumb/trigger, use a splint, or take anti-inflammatory medication. He suggested the steroid injection for my trigger thumb. Yesterday, my husband and I went very early to my ortho doctor’s clinic at Makati Medical Center to have the steroid injection done, which cost Php2,500. I also paid a consultation fee of Php1,000.
My ortho doctor told me to observe my thumb for a month. If the condition doesn’t improve, then I’ll have a second steroid injection. If that still doesn’t work, then the last option would be surgery.
Have you or someone you know experienced trigger thumb or trigger finger before? How did you/they resolve it?