Trigger Finger Tests

Learn about the Trigger Finger Test, a quick assessment for identifying trigger finger. Download our free PDF template to conduct the exam easily.

By Ericka Pingol on Jul 15, 2024.


Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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What is a Trigger Finger Test?

Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition that predominantly affects the fingers and thumbs, leading to pain, stiffness, and difficulty in moving the involved digit. This condition arises when the flexor tendons, responsible for bending the fingers, become inflamed or swollen. Consequently, the tendon's movement through the tendon sheath, specifically the A1 pulley at the base of the finger, is hindered. This disruption can cause the finger or thumb to lock in a flexed position and then suddenly snap straight, mimicking the action of pulling and releasing a trigger, thereby earning the name "trigger finger."

The treatment for trigger finger may involve various strategies. Initially, resting the affected digit, using a night splint to keep the finger straight, and applying anti-inflammatory medications are common non-surgical approaches. In cases where inflammation is significant, corticosteroid injections into the tendon sheath may be administered to reduce swelling and relieve pain.

In more severe or persistent cases, surgical treatment, known as trigger finger release surgery, may be necessary. This surgical procedure involves cutting the A1 pulley to allow the tendon to glide more freely. Trigger finger release surgery is usually considered after other treatments, like stretching exercises, hand therapy, or steroid injections, have failed to provide relief.

During a physical exam, medical professionals use the trigger finger test as a critical diagnostic tool. This involves asking the patient to perform specific movements with the affected finger or thumb, looking for any signs of triggering, finger locking in a flexed position, or difficulty in straightening the finger. This test helps in observing tendon movement and assessing the severity of the condition.

By carefully evaluating these symptoms through physical examination and considering patient history, healthcare providers, including hand therapists and orthopaedic surgeons, can accurately diagnose trigger finger. This comprehensive approach enables them to determine the most effective treatment plan, which may range from simple interventions like padded gloves to reduce inflammation and avoid injury, to more complex measures such as hand surgery, particularly in diabetic patients or those with other underlying medical conditions.

Printable Trigger Finger Test

Download this Trigger Finger Test to better assess your patients.

How does the Trigger Finger Test work?

You can easily conduct the Trigger Finger Test using our free template. Follow these steps to perform the exam:

Step One: Download the free worksheet

Access the printable Trigger Finger Test template through the link on this page or the Carepatron app, or download it from our resources library.

Step Two: Explain the Trigger Finger Test to your patient

Inform your patient that the Trigger Finger Test is designed to determine if they have trigger finger. Explain the condition's symptoms and how the test can help diagnose it.

Step Three: Perform the Trigger Finger Test

Utilize the instructions in the template to conduct the exam. Guide the patient through the specific finger movement and observe for triggering or locking.

Step Four: Evaluate the results

Once the test is complete, analyze the results. Look for triggering or locking during the finger movement, which can indicate the presence and severity of trigger finger.

Trigger Finger Test interpretation

The Trigger Finger Test is a valuable tool for assessing the likelihood of a trigger finger in patients. If your patient's finger exhibits triggering or locking during the test, it suggests the presence of trigger finger. The test's results can also help determine the appropriate course of action, whether conservative treatment or referral to a hand specialist.

It's important to note that the Trigger Finger Test is only one part of a comprehensive diagnostic process. Consider other factors when making a final diagnosis, such as age, medical history, and underlying conditions.

When to use the Trigger Finger Test?

You can use the Trigger Finger Test to assess any patient experiencing pain, stiffness, or limited movement in their fingers. Moreover, you can use our free worksheet to:

Assess the presence and severity of trigger finger in a patient

This template allows for the evaluation of trigger finger likelihood in patients. Additionally, it can help you assess the severity of the condition and provide recommendations for treatment options.

Determine if conservative or surgical treatments are needed

The results of this test can help guide your decision-making process when considering treatments for trigger finger. Non-surgical treatments may be sufficient for mild cases, whereas more severe cases may require surgical intervention.

Monitor the progress of treatment

You can use the Trigger Finger Test to regularly monitor your patient's condition and see if treatments have a positive effect or if further intervention is needed. By measuring results pre-treatment and post-treatment, you will know if your strategy is working or needs adjustment.

Demonstrate the test to other clinicians for educational purposes

If you need to demonstrate the test to other practitioners, our Trigger Finger Test can be a great visual aid. It is an easy-to-follow guide that covers all relevant information about trigger finger and its assessment. You can also use it as a reference when teaching medical students or residents about this condition.

Benefits of the free Trigger Finger Test

Carepatron's free Trigger Finger Test is fully digital and easy to follow. Here are some of its benefits:

It's quick and comprehensive

Our free template is straightforward and requires minimal setup. It covers all the necessary information for a thorough assessment of trigger finger.

It's user-friendly

The interface is intuitive and easy to follow, no matter your experience level. We've designed this template to make data collection and interpretation simple.

It's customizable

You can customize the Trigger Finger Test with additional questions or parameters relevant to your case.

It's paperless

The Trigger Finger Test is completely electronic, which eliminates the need for manual forms or paperwork. This reduces clutter and allows you to store patient records securely in one place.

It can help you make more informed decisions

By measuring results pre-treatment and post-treatment, you can gain insights into the effectiveness of your strategies. This data allows you to adjust treatments as needed and make more informed decisions.

It can help patients understand their condition better

The Trigger Finger Test can help patients understand their condition in more detail. They can see how their assessment results compare to the average range and use this information to make decisions about treatment options.

What is a trigger finger test, and how is it performed to diagnose trigger finger?
What is a trigger finger test, and how is it performed to diagnose trigger finger?

Commonly asked questions

What is a trigger finger test, and how is it performed to diagnose trigger finger?

The trigger finger test is a diagnostic procedure used by healthcare professionals, typically orthopaedic surgeons or hand therapists, to identify trigger finger or trigger thumb. During this test, the patient is asked to flex and extend the affected finger or thumb. The doctor looks for symptoms like pain, finger locking in a bent position, difficulty in straightening the finger, and a clicking or snapping sound. This test helps in observing the movement of the flexor tendons through the tendon sheaths and identifying any hindrance due to swollen tendons or narrowed sheaths.

What are the common symptoms of trigger finger, and do they vary for different digits like the ring finger or thumb?

Common symptoms of trigger finger include stiffness, especially in the morning, a clicking or popping sensation when moving the finger, pain at the base of the finger or thumb, and the finger locking in a bent position before snapping straight. These symptoms can affect any digit, including the ring finger or thumb, with the thumb condition often referred to as 'trigger thumb'. The intensity of symptoms might vary based on the affected digit and severity of the condition.

What are the risk factors for developing trigger finger, and can it affect multiple digits?

Risk factors for developing trigger finger include repetitive gripping activities, certain medical conditions like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, and occupations or hobbies that strain the fingers (e.g., playing racket sports).

Age is also a factor, with most patients being between 40 and 60 years old. Trigger finger can affect multiple digits, and it's more common in the ring finger and thumb. In some cases, more than one finger is affected, known as trigger fingers.

How are steroid injections used in the treatment of trigger finger, and what other treatments are available?

Steroid injections are used in the treatment of trigger finger to reduce inflammation and swelling within the flexor tendon sheath, easing the movement of the tendon. This treatment can provide relief from pain and reduce the locking and stiffness of the affected finger or thumb.

Other treatments include splinting the affected digit, especially at night, using anti-inflammatory medications, and hand therapy exercises. If these treatments are ineffective, surgical release of the affected tendon, either through traditional surgery or percutaneous release, may be necessary.

Can trigger finger be treated with surgery, and what does this involve?

Yes, trigger finger can be treated with surgery, particularly when other treatments have failed to provide relief. Trigger finger surgery, often referred to as trigger finger release surgery, involves cutting the A1 pulley, which is part of the flexor tendon sheath, to widen the space and allow the flexor tendon to glide more freely.

This procedure can be done traditionally or through a less invasive method known as percutaneous release. Post-surgery, patients may work with a hand therapist to regain full range of motion and strength in the affected digit. Most patients experience significant improvement within a few weeks after the surgery.

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