Can Carpal Tunnel Surgery Cause Trigger Finger?

by | Nov 15, 2023

Carpal tunnel surgery can be a huge game changer for those suffering from the pain and discomfort of carpal tunnel syndrome. However, after the surgery, you have to be extremely careful and make sure to give your wrist a lot of rest. Otherwise, it could disrupt the healing process and give way to trigger finger. Often, people complain about their fingers freezing up and curling in their hands. This is a direct result of trigger fingers, which is more often than not caused by carpal tunnel surgery. To learn more about this and see what causes it, keep reading this blog.

What is a Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger is a condition that causes the tendons in your hands to swell up. However, the sudden thickness tends to negatively affect your fingers and thumb. Since tendons come covered in a protective sheath, internal swelling can make it difficult for the tendons to move inside. This typically leads to your finger freezing out and getting trapped in an awkward bent position.

Is It Normal To Have Stiff Fingers After Carpal Tunnel Surgery?

Carpal tunnel surgery is an invasive surgical operation that aims to treat symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. During the procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision in the palm of your hand before cutting the tight ligament that triggers the pain.

The purpose of carpal tunnel surgery is to eliminate the pain and return your hand movement back to normal. However, it is common for people to get stiff hands after the procedure. At times, the mobility of their fingers and wrists might also be affected, limiting their actions. But this isn’t something to worry about as it can easily be treated through minor exercises and physical therapy. It is only in rare cases that the stiffness worsens and steals away all feeling in your hand.

What Causes Trigger Finger After Carpal Tunnel Surgery?

There have been various studies and research conducted on this matter, as it’s not normal to experience a trigger finger after carpal tunnel surgery. However, there is an increased risk of someone developing a trigger finger if they have undergone surgery. This is due to the sensitive nature of the procedure, which handles your median nerve.

Your hand has flexor tendons, which help take charge of your fingers and thumb, allowing them to bend. However, during carpal tunnel surgery, these tendons can get shifted from their position since the procedure involves separating the transverse carpal ligament from the median nerve. The sudden displacement of this action causes the tendon to loosen from the sheath, stringing at the pulley that supports this movement. The force of this action can tug at the ligaments even more, triggering the finger muscles to contract in a trigger finger motion.

Treatment Options

The treatment for trigger finger depends on the finger affected by the condition and the severity of the symptoms. However, in most cases, doctors suggest taking the following steps to soothe the pain:

  1. OTC Pain Relief Medication
    To minimize the swelling and ease the pain, you can take any over-the-counter pain relief medication. Although, if the pain persists, talk to your doctor. They might prescribe you corticosteroids or a cortisone shot to bring the tendons back to life.
  2. Rest
    The more you rest, the better it will be for your health. After undergoing carpal tunnel surgery, it is necessary to give your hand the rest it deserves.
  3. Wearing a Splint
    In some cases, wearing a splint might produce better results. This is because the splint straightens the finger out, restoring the flexibility and movement of the trigger finger.
  4. Stretching and Flexing the Hand
    The best way to restore stability to your hand is by practicing physical therapy exercises. Your doctor will tell you which movements to focus on more and how you can massage the trigger finger back to its rightful position.

Long Story Short

After carpal tunnel surgery, your hand is left in a vulnerable state. This can give way to trigger finger, especially if proper care and rest aren’t taken. Nonetheless, Dr. Randy Luo has years of orthopedic experience under his belt. He is a certified hand orthopedic specialist who is bound to ease all your troubles away.

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