Is Trigger Finger the Same as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Article featured on Movement Orthopedics

Are you one of those people whose occupation involves flexing of the wrist day in and day out? If so, you may be at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. But did you know that there’s another condition that you could be susceptible to if your job involves repetitive hand movements? It’s called trigger finger.

So, what’s the difference between these two conditions? Keep reading to find out.

What Is Trigger Finger?

Also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, trigger finger occurs when a tendon in any of the fingers (including the thumb) becomes inflamed and unable to easily glide through its sheath – the thin layer of tissue surrounding a tendon. Prolonged inflammation can lead to the formation of nodules in the tendon, which ultimately renders the affected finger unable to freely bend and straighten.

The symptoms of trigger finger can range from mild to severe, and can become worse over time. If you have trigger finger, you will likely experience any or some of the following symptoms:

  • Clicking, popping, or snapping sensation when moving your finger
  • Difficulty carrying out basic hand movements, especially those that involve gripping
  • Locking of the finger in a bent position (can suddenly pop straight)
  • Pain and tenderness at the base of your affected finger
  • Stiffness in your finger (mostly noticeable in the morning)

Treatment

Your hand specialist will likely first take a conservative approach to treating your trigger finger. Your doctor may recommend that you rest your hands, wear a splint, and/or perform stretching exercises.

If your symptoms continue unabated, your hand surgeon may give you a cortisone shot to control the inflammation and allow the tendon to glide freely.

If your symptoms don’t respond to nonoperative treatment, your hand surgeon may recommend surgery, in which they will make an incision in the palm area of your hand to access the tendon sheath and cut it to give the tendon more room to move. Another option is percutaneous release, in which your doctor will use a needle to break up the constricting tissue around the tendon sheath, thereby allowing the tendon to move.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve – which provides sensation and motor function for the wrist, hand, and forearm – is compressed and unable to function properly.

CTS is also a progressive condition. However, unlike trigger finger, CTS is apparently neuropathic in nature, causing pain, shock-like sensation, numbness, and weakness, all of which can radiate up the forearm and make fine motor skills difficult.

Treatment

Rest, wearing wrist splints, and anti-inflammatories are the common nonsurgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. If none of these provide adequate relief, your hand surgeon may administer cortisone injections to alleviate the inflammation and swelling.

If your symptoms persist despite a lengthy course of nonsurgical treatment, your hand specialist may recommend surgery. Carpal tunnel surgery involves your doctor severing the transverse carpal ligament to allow for more space in the carpal tunnel and consequently relieve pressure on the median nerve.


The Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Center of Oregon is an award-winning, board-certified orthopedic group located in downtown Portland Oregon. We utilize both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat musculoskeletal trauma, spine diseases, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors and congenital disorders.

Our mission is to return our patients back to pain-free mobility and full strength as quickly and painlessly as possible using both surgical and non-surgical orthopedic procedures.

Our expert physicians provide leading-edge, comprehensive care in the diagnosis and treatment of orthopedic conditions, including total joint replacement and sports medicine. We apply the latest state-of-the-art techniques in order to return our patients to their active lifestyle.

If you’re looking for compassionate, expert orthopedic surgeons in Portland Oregon, contact OSM today.

Phone:
503-224-8399

Address
1515 NW 18th Ave, 3rd Floor
Portland, OR 97209

Hours
Monday–Friday
8:00am – 4:30pm

Is My Hand Pain from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Something Else?

Article featured on Spine-Health.

We all wake up sometimes with a numb and tingly hand. But ongoing hand pain and numbness can be a disabling problem that requires diagnosis and treatment.

Here are 3 of the main causes of hand pain and numbness—and tips for how you can tell them apart.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

When hand pain is experienced, it’s common to first suspect carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition is caused by the narrowing of a bony passageway in your wrist, which irritates or compresses the median nerve that runs through it.

Symptoms tend to be in the thumb, index finger, or middle finger, along the path of the median nerve. The pain may wake you up at night or be worse in the morning. In the early stages, shaking your hand may bring relief.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Another possible cause of hand pain and numbness is rheumatoid arthritis.

Hand pain from rheumatoid arthritis tends to be different from carpal tunnel syndrome in 2 main ways:

  1. It causes pain and stiffness in the large knuckles or joints of the wrist, rather than along a nerve path.
  2. Its pain is symmetrical, meaning it will affect both hands simultaneously.

Cervical radiculopathy caused by spine conditions

While it may not seem obvious, your hand pain and/or tingling may actually be caused by a problem in your neck.

The nerves that give sensation to your hands originate in your cervical spine. When one or more of the 8 nerve roots that exit the cervical spine become irritated, it causes pain and other neurological symptoms down the nerve path. This is known as cervical radiculopathy.

The most common conditions that can trigger radiculopathy include:

  • Cervical herniated disc
  • Cervical spinal stenosis
  • Cervical degenerative disc disease
  • Cervical osteoarthritis

Cervical radiculopathy pain can be mildly achy or sharp and stabbing. It can also cause numbness and/or pins-and-needles tingling sensations. Symptoms can affect different sections of the hand depending on what level of the spine is the source of the irritated nerve.

Since carpal tunnel syndrome and cervical radiculopathy can both affect the median nerve, it’s important to note one key difference: Carpal tunnel syndrome pain will only affect the hand and wrist. Cervical radiculopathy from the C6 spine level (where the median nerve originates) will often cause pain and symptoms along the arm and in the bicep, as well as in the hand.

Aside from these 3 causes, hand pain can also be caused by a variety of other conditions, including diabetes and nutritional issues.

The best way to tackle hand pain that doesn’t resolve is to see your doctor, who can diagnose the correct cause and start a treatment plan. Many conditions that cause hand pain are more easily treated if they’re caught early.


The Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Center of Oregon is an award-winning, board-certified orthopedic group located in downtown Portland Oregon. We utilize both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat musculoskeletal trauma, spine diseases, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors and congenital disorders.

Our mission is to return our patients back to pain-free mobility and full strength as quickly and painlessly as possible using both surgical and non-surgical orthopedic procedures.

Our expert physicians provide leading-edge, comprehensive care in the diagnosis and treatment of orthopedic conditions, including total joint replacement and sports medicine. We apply the latest state-of-the-art techniques in order to return our patients to their active lifestyle.

If you’re looking for compassionate, expert orthopedic surgeons in Portland Oregon, contact OSM today.

Phone:
503-224-8399

Address
1515 NW 18th Ave, 3rd Floor
Portland, OR 97209

Hours
Monday–Friday

Do I Need Carpal Tunnel Surgery?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm. The condition occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand — the median nerve — is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist.

Read more

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Description

Carpal tunnel syndrome is essentially a pinched nerve in the wrist. There is a space in the wrist called the carpal tunnel where the median nerve and nine tendons pass from the forearm into the hand (Figure 1). Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when swelling in this tunnel puts pressure on the nerve.

Read more