Key Points about Trigger Finger

  • Trigger finger occurs when the tendon’s protective sheath becomes inflamed or irritated.
  • Symptoms of trigger finger include pain, stiffness, swelling, soreness, trouble flexing your finger, or a snapping sensation with you move the finger.
  • Risk factors associated with trigger finger include having diabetes, having carpal tunnel syndrome, you are a woman, or you have an occupation that requires gripping or grasping.
  • Your doctor can diagnose trigger finger with a review of your symptoms and a physical exam. Imaging is not generally required.
  • While most cases of trigger finger can be treated with nonsurgical therapies, surgery may be required in specific cases.


Trigger finger, or trigger thumb, occurs when one of your fingers becomes stuck in a bent position. The medical term for trigger finger is stenosing tenosynovitis. If left untreated, trigger finger can

The ring finger is commonly affected.

Trigger finger causes

Tendons are responsible for attaching muscle to bone. Your body’s tendons are surrounded by a sheath that protects it. When the sheath becomes irritated and inflamed, trigger finger can develop. As the condition progressively worsens, the normal gliding motion of the tendon through the sheath is affected.

If left untreated, the sheath can scar, thicken, and nodules may form in the tendon that may impede motion or lock a finger in a bent position.

Trigger finger symptoms

Symptoms and signs of trigger finger include:

  • Pain, swelling, or soreness around the thumb or another finger.
  • Snapping or clicking sensation as you move your finger or thumb.
  • Stiffness when bending your thumb.
  • Trouble flexing your finger.

Generally, signs and symptoms of trigger finger are more severe in the morning and gradually improve over the course of the day.

Trigger finger complications

If left untreated, trigger finger can rapidly progress to where your thumb and another finger are locked in a bent or straight position.

In the most severe cases, you may have trouble uncurling your finger without using the other hand.

Trigger finger risk factors

Several factors can increase your risk of developing trigger finger, including:

  • Health issues, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Women are more likely to develop trigger finger.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. Trigger finger is prevalent in the six months after carpal tunnel syndrome surgery.
  • Occupations that involve repetitive hand movements and extended periods of gripping objects.
  • Having Diabetes.
  • People between 40 and 60 are more likely to get trigger finger.

Trigger finger prevention

While many cases of trigger finger can not be prevented, avoiding repetitive gripping or grasping motions can help prevent the condition in some cases.

Trigger finger diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose trigger finger. During a clinic visit, your doctor will take a full medical history, evaluate your symptoms, and perform a physical examination.

Physical Exam

Your doctor will open and close your hand, evaluate the areas of pain in your hand, and look for any signs of locking.  If there is evidence of a lump in your palm, your doctor will determine if the lump moves as the finger moves.

Typically, you will not need imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis.

Trigger finger treatment

First-line therapy for trigger finger is rest. It is essential to avoid any activities that aggravate the condition, such as repetitive gripping or grasping.

Most cases of trigger finger can be treated with nonsurgical therapies such as medications, immobilization, and physical therapy.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen can relieve pain associated with trigger finger.
  • Immobilizing the finger. A splint can help the affected tendon rest and heal. Your doctor may recommend wearing the brace at night for as long as six weeks.
  • Physical therapy. Gentle stretching exercises can help you move your finger without pain.
  • Steroid injection. Your doctor can inject cortisone directly into the affected tendon to reduce inflammation.
  • Percutaneous release. During this procedure, your doctor will insert a needle into the affected area. When in the correct location, the doctor will move the needle along with the finger to break apart the constriction.

If conservative treatments are not proving effective, you may need more aggressive treatment. If your finger pain, stiffness, or swelling has persisted for more than six weeks, or you have diabetes, you may need surgical treatment.

During a surgical procedure to treat trigger finger, your doctor will make an incision into and cut open the constricted area of the affected tendon.

When to Seek Care

If your finger joint is hot or inflamed, call your doctor right away. If the finger is infected, you need immediate treatment.

If you are experiencing stiffness, pain, popping, or have trouble moving the finger, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or orthopedist.

Next Steps

Carefully follow your doctor’s treatment and recovery instructions.

If your symptoms worsen or have persisted for longer than six weeks, call your doctor to determine if you need surgical intervention.

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