Orthopedic Surgery

June 29, 2015

Carpal Tunnel vs. Trigger Finger: Compare the Symptoms and Corrective Procedures


If you are experiencing pain in your hands or wrists, you may be experiencing symptoms of either Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Trigger Finger. Certain symptoms differentiate the two conditions, and dictate the course of treatment.

Carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger both affect your hand; causing pain, stiffness, and reduced ability to work or manipulate objects. While both conditions affect your hands, carpal tunnel also affects the wrist, forearm, and selected fingers. This extends your pain, numbness, and weakness.

Trigger finger targets a sole finger or thumb, locking the joint uncomfortably into place and making even simple movements difficult. If you are experiencing excessive pain or stiffness, discuss your pain management options with your doctor. An orthopedic surgeon can correctly diagnose and treat the symptoms of either carpal tunnel or trigger finger.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The ability to move your hand and feel sensations in your thumb and first three fingers is directly connected to the median nerve. This pathway runs from your forearm to your hand via a small tunnel in your wrist – the carpal tunnel.

When this pathway is compromised, from either illness or repetitive motion, your median nerve is put under pressure resulting in tingling, weakness, and numbness in your hands, wrists, and arms. Common signs of carpal tunnel syndrome include pain in the thumb and first three fingers (the pinky finger is not usually affected).

Do I Need Carpal Tunnel Surgery?
Mild or first-time symptoms can be treated with rest and over-the-counter pain relievers. Using ice packs and wearing a wrist splint to stabilize your hand and arm at night can also reduce the pressure and alleviate your symptoms.

If your symptoms do not resolve within a few weeks, it may be an indication that you have nerve damage. If there is nerve damage, orthopedic surgery may be required.

Carpal tunnel surgery eliminates your symptoms by releasing pressure on the median nerve thought a cut to the transverse carpal ligament. Your surgeon will make an incision at the base of your palm, cut the ligament, and close then your hand with stitches. This outpatient surgery is usually done under local anesthesia and you will go home the same day.

What Is Trigger Finger?
When the tendons in your finger or thumb become inflamed, they can become stuck or locked into a bent position. When the tendons in your hands and arms become inflamed or irritated, they cannot move as readily through the thin tunnel of ligament that holds them in place. When this happens, you will notice pain, stiffness, and a snapping or popping sound.

Repetitive motion and some medical conditions can cause trigger finger. Musicians, factory workers, and people who engage in handcrafts like crocheting or knitting often suffer from trigger finger.

Do I Need Trigger Finger Surgery?
Pain relievers can help alleviate the inflammation that causes trigger finger in some cases. Eliminating or modifying the activity that causes the symptoms can help as well if repetitive motion is the cause of your pain.

A splint can help immobilize your finger and further relieve symptoms. If these measures fail to reduce your pain, an orthopedic surgeon can correct the problem with trigger finger surgery. Trigger finger surgery works by widening the tunnel that the impacted tendon travels through, alleviating your stiffness and pain.

You will be put under general anesthesia, or will receive a bier block (intravenous regional anesthesia); and your surgeon will open the muscle at the base of your affected finger to give the tendon a smoother range of motion. You should notice an increase in active motion immediately after surgery and be able to return to your usual activities as comfort allows.

If you are suffering from hand or wrist pain, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital to discuss if carpal tunnel surgery or trigger finger surgery is right for you at (877) 918-7020. Our experienced orthopedic surgeons can answer all of your questions about treatment for your hand and wrist pain.


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*Photo by Biswarup Ganguly via Wikimedia Commons CC3.0

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