Long hours holding the steering wheel can lead to trigger finger

by Christopher Singh

As part of their jobs, many professional truck drivers put tremendous strain on their hands. Whether it’s gripping the steering wheel or securing a load, drivers are more prone to developing a hand condition called trigger finger than the average person.
The medical term for trigger finger is stenosing tenosynovitis. This condition is characterized by a finger or thumb being stuck in a bent position.

When straightened, the finger releases with a quick snap similar to a trigger on a gun.  

Trigger finger most often affects people who continuously work with their hands.  

Repetitive gripping motions are by far the most common cause of this condition.

The repetitive movement of the hand causes irritation and inflammation in the sheath that surrounds the tendon of the affected finger.

This eventually leads to narrowing of the sheath, which in turn restricts the movement of the tendon.

At times the tendon will catch or get stuck in a bent position before popping straight.

With prolonged inflammation, the tendon may thicken and scar which can lead to the formation of nodules. When this occurs, the movement of the finger is greatly affected.

The symptoms of trigger finger range from person to person. It can be as mild as morning stiffness in the finger. Another common symptom is popping or clicking of the finger during movement. In the most severe cases, the finger will lock in a bent position.

Trigger finger most commonly affects the thumb and first two fingers of a person’s dominant hand.

However, more than one finger can be affected at a time.

The diagnosis of trigger finger is usually based on a detailed medical history and physical examination by your health care professional. In most cases, sophisticated imaging tests such as MRIs or CT scans are not necessary. The type of treatment your health care professional will recommended is usually based on the severity of your symptoms.

For mild cases, splinting is a common form of treatment.

Your health professional may require you to wear a splint that keeps your finger in an extended position for up to six weeks. The splint prevents you from moving or bending your finger, which will reduce the irritation and inflammation.

Another commonly used treatment is finger exercises, which are aimed at maintaining movement of your finger.

To add to this, avoiding repetitive gripping movements for a few weeks is a good idea.

For more severe cases, your health professional may recommend anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen.

These medications may help to reduce the swelling and pain that is associated with trigger finger. Steroid injections are also a possible treatment for severe cases. Although much less common, surgery aimed at releasing the trapped tendon may be performed.

Alternative therapies such as massage and acupuncture have also been shown to help relieve the symptoms of trigger finger in some cases.

If you do begin to notice the symptoms of trigger finger in yourself, it is important to consult with a health care professional as soon as possible due to the fact that this condition is much easier to treat in its early stages.

Until next month, take care of your hands and drive safely!

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.