When many people think of workers’ compensation, they view it as something that a person receives for an on-the-job injury, such as an accident or another major occurrence. In reality, workers’ compensation covers many types of workplace injuries and illnesses, such as occupational exposures and repetitive stress injuries.
Also known as wear and tear injuries, repetitive stress injuries arise from doing the same motion over and over again. For example, if you drive for work, you may suffer from a common ailment known as tennis elbow due to repeatedly moving your arm in a circular motion. Doing this can cause injury or damaged tendons near the elbow.
Similarly, a trigger finger is a type of repetitive stress or wear and tear injury that may impact workers. Often caused by repeatedly gripping something — such as power tools — it can cause a finger to get stuck in the bent position.
If you have been diagnosed with trigger finger, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. A skilled New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney can demonstrate that your condition was caused by your work — and advocate for your right to benefits.
What Is Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger is a medical condition that is a result of inflammation in the sheath that surrounds the tendon in a finger. It causes that finger to get stuck in a bent position. It may bend or straighten with a snap, much like a trigger being pulled or released — hence its name.
Also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, trigger finger may cause a finger to lock in a bent position in severe cases. It is often caused by work that requires repetitive gripping actions. This condition can affect any finger, including the thumb.
The signs and symptoms of trigger finger typically progress from mild to severe, including:
- Finger stiffness, especially in the morning
- Tenderness or a bump in the palm at the base of the affected finger
- A popping or clicking feeling as you move your finger
- Finger catching or locking in a bent position, which suddenly pops straight
- Finger locked in a bent position and unable to straighten
More than one finger may be affected by a trigger finger at a time, and both hands may be involved in this condition. It is often more pronounced in the morning, as well as when an individual is firmly grasping an object or when straightening their finger.
Tendons are fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone. Each tendon is surrounded by a protective sheath. When that sheath becomes irritated and inflamed, it interferes with the normal gliding motion of the tendon through the sheath, causing a trigger finger.
If the irritation and inflammation of the tendon sheath are prolonged, it may lead to scarring, thickening, and the formation of bumps (known as nodules) in the tendon. This can limit the tendon’s motion even further.
One of the biggest risk factors for trigger finger is occupations or hobbies that involve repetitive hand use and prolonged gripping. The condition is more common in women and among people with certain health problems.
Trigger finger is diagnosed through a medical history and physical exam. Treatment may include the use of medication, including non-steroidal inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain. These medications will not typically reduce the swelling or alleviate the issue of a trapped tendon.
Other treatments include rest, including limiting the use of vibrating hand-held machinery, using a splint, and stretching exercises. A doctor may also suggest a steroid injection to reduce inflammation, or a percutaneous release to break apart the constriction in the finger. Surgery may also be necessary to open up the constricted section of the tendon sheath.
Qualifying for Workers’ Comp with Trigger Finger
If you have been diagnosed with a trigger finger as a result of your work duties, then you will likely be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The challenge is to prove that your condition is the result of performing an action over time, such as gripping a tool. This can often be more difficult than proving that your broken foot is the result of being hit by a forklift, for example.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system of insurance designed to ensure that employees who suffer on-the-job illnesses and injuries receive benefits. This means that you do not have to prove that your employer was responsible for what happened in order to get benefits. Instead, you simply need to show that (1) you have the condition and (2) the condition is the result of your job duties.
One of the primary causes of trigger finger is repetitive gripping motions. If you perform a job where you need to grip something repeatedly, particularly a tool that vibrates (such as a jackhammer), then your lawyer can put together a strong case demonstrating that your condition was caused by your work.
Many professions require employees to use a repetitive grip, such as wait staff, utility workers, heavy equipment operators, medical professionals, and first responders. A treating physician can document how performing a particular action, such as holding a piece of equipment, can cause inflammation of the sheath of a tendon over time. This is a direct link to the trigger finger.
For many employees, fully functional hands are a requirement to perform their job safely and properly. If even one finger — let alone several — is not working due to trigger finger, they will not be able to work. This may require time off of work to recover while treating the underlying cause of the condition.
We’re Here to Help.
Trigger finger is just one of many repetitive stress injuries that an employee may suffer over the course of their career. While it may be tempting to write off these types of injuries to getting older, if you have been diagnosed with trigger finger, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney can help.
At Bross & Frankel, we strongly believe that employees should get the benefits that they are entitled to under the law, including workers’ compensation. We fight for our clients’ rights, standing with them through each step of the process. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation, contact us today at 856-795-8880 or reach out online.