A clicking or popping thumb can often come with pain and stiffness. Find out what’s causing it and what you can do to improve hand function.

Trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis) is a condition that affects roughly 2% of people in the United States. Though possible in people of all ages, including children, it’s most often observed in women in their 50s and 60s. It’s one of the most common causes of hand pain and usually occurs along with other conditions like arthritis, gout, and diabetes.

Symptoms of trigger finger can include:

  • A popping sensation when you move the affected finger
  • Finger immobility and locking
  • Tenderness or pain in your hand
  • A swollen, tender lump in your palm

Although the condition is best known as the trigger finger, the thumb is one of two digits most commonly affected by stenosing tenosynovitis. Often, the condition affects multiple fingers at a time. You should report concerning symptoms to your orthopedist at North Point Orthopaedics immediately, significantly if they limit your hand function.

Our expert orthopedists at our Munster and Crown Point, Indiana offices can evaluate the tendons in your hand for damage indicative of a trigger finger. Depending on your condition’s severity, they may recommend watchful waiting, mild home care, or immediate treatment for the affected hand.

A clicking or popping thumb could signal a trigger finger, but you need an expert evaluation to confirm that diagnosis. Read on to learn more about the trigger finger in the thumb, how it develops, and your next steps.

The pathology of trigger finger (and why your thumb is clicking)

You can flex and extend each finger individually or as a group with a healthy hand. Your tendons, which are fibrous bands connecting muscle to bone, allow you to do so. Each tendon in your hand is encased in a protective sheath membrane that keeps your hand movements smooth and frictionless.

When a trigger finger affects a thumb or finger, the sheaths around the tendons become inflamed and constrictive. This results in friction when you move your hand, so your fingers no longer move as smoothly as before. They may even lock in place. This is also why you may be experiencing clicking or popping when you move your thumb: The sensation happens when the tendon catches on the inflamed sheath.

Confirming your diagnosis

A popping sensation when you move your thumb is a standard symptom of trigger thumb. While trigger finger and trigger thumb often develop alongside specific medical conditions, those conditions aren’t prerequisites for having the disease. Forceful hand movements can also build a trigger finger or thumb.

Our team examines the affected hand and reviews your symptoms and medical history during your visit. They check for evidence of locking and may ask you to perform several hand movements to display signs.

What’s next?

Clinical treatment may or may not be necessary for your trigger finger. Sometimes, it’s best to rest the affected hand, perform gentle exercises to improve flexibility, and take over-the-counter medication to manage pain. Our team might encourage you to return for follow-ups to monitor the condition.

North Point Orthopaedics can provide additional treatment like splinting or steroid injections to reduce symptoms without surgery. Suppose these treatments don’t offer lasting improvements. In that case, an in-office procedure called percutaneous release can alleviate some of the tension in your tendons and restore smooth motion to your thumb or finger. Minimally invasive surgery can treat the underlying problem, too.

If you suspect a trigger finger in your thumb (or any digit), don’t hesitate to schedule a visit online or over the phone at North Point Orthopaedics for advanced, conservative care.

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