Trigger Finger

Trigger Finger is a condition in which inflammation in tissue causes pain, stiffness, popping or locking of your thumb or finger. This condition can make it difficult to straighten your  fingers or thumb.

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Understanding Trigger Finger

What is trigger finger?

Trigger finger is an inflammation of tissue inside your finger or thumb. It is also called tenosynovitis (ten-oh-sin-oh-VY-tis). The tendon sheath or tunnel of tissue that holds the tendon stable becomes thick and stiff. Tendons (cordlike fibers that attach muscle to bone and allow you to bend the joints) become swollen. So does the synovium (a slick membrane that allows the tendons to move easily). This makes it hard to straighten the finger or thumb.


Repeated use of a tool with strong gripping, such as a drill or wrench, can irritate and inflame the tendons and the synovium. It is also more common in certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout and diabetes. But often the cause of trigger finger is unknown.

Inside your finger

Tendons connect muscles in your forearm to the bones in your fingers. The tendons in each finger are surrounded by a protective tendon sheath. This sheath is lined with synovium, which produces a fluid that allows the tendons to slide easily when you bend and straighten the finger. If a tendon is irritated, it becomes inflamed.

When a tendon is inflamed

When a tendon is inflamed, it causes the lining of the tendon sheath to swell and thicken, or the tendon itself may thicken. The sheath then pinches the tendon. The tendon can then no longer slide easily inside the sheath. When you straighten your finger, the tendon sticks or “locks” as it tries to squeeze back through the sheath.


The first sign of trigger finger may be pain where the finger or thumb joins the palm. You may also notice some swelling. As the tendon becomes inflamed, the finger may start to catch when you try to straighten or bend it. When the locked tendon releases, the finger jumps, as if you were releasing the trigger of a gun. This further irritates the tendon. It may set up a cycle of catching and swelling.

Treating trigger finger

Trigger finger occurs when the tissue inside your finger or thumb becomes inflamed. Mild cases can be treated without surgery. If the problem is severe, surgery may be needed. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about your options.

Nonsurgical treatment

For mild symptoms, your healthcare provider may have you rest the finger or thumb. You may also be told to take anti-inflammatory medicines. These include ibuprofen or aspirin. You may be given an injection of medicine in the base of the finger or thumb. This typically is a steroid, like cortisone.


If nonsurgical treatments don’t ease your symptoms, you may need surgery. A tendon is a cordlike fiber that attaches muscle to bone and allows joints to bend. The tendon is surrounded by a protective cover called a sheath.

During surgery, the sheath in your finger or thumb is opened to enlarge the space and release the swollen tendon. This allows the finger or thumb to bend and straighten normally.

Surgery takes about 20 minutes. It can often be done using a local anesthetic. You may also be sedated. You are able to go home the same day. Your hand will be wrapped in a soft bandage.

You may need to wear a plaster splint for a short time to keep the finger or thumb still as it heals. The stitches will be removed in about two weeks. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about the risks and benefits of surgery.

Exercises that may help with Trigger Finger

If you have trigger finger, some exercises may help ease the symptoms.

Please talk to your healthcare provider before performing any of these exercises as your individual situation may be different than others.

1. Make a fist and then straighten your fingers out one at a time.

2. Use your other hand to gently stretch the affected finger or thumb by pulling it away from the palm of your hand.

3. Place a rubber band around your fingers and then open your hand against the resistance of the rubber band.

4. Use your affected finger or thumb to press down on a hard surface, such as a tabletop.

5. Gently squeeze a stress ball or tennis ball with your affected finger or thumb.

You should do these exercises several times a day. If you have any pain, stop the exercise and talk to your healthcare provider.

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