Trigger Finger

How it Happens

Trigger finger, or trigger thumb, as it is sometimes known, occurs when a tendon or the protective sheath of tissue surrounding it becomes inflamed or irritated, resulting in the finger becoming stuck in a bent position. The tendon is guided by pulleys that allow freedom of movement. The pulleys also hold the tendons in place near the bone. When inflammation occurs, the space where the tendon and pulleys exist is narrowed, limiting movement. In some severe cases, the finger may become locked in a bent position. The normal gliding motion that enables normal movement is compromised because of the inflammation. Trigger finger is common among women, individuals with rheumatoid arthritis; or those who use their hands repetitively in work or sport. Prolonged periods of gripping may cause or worsen trigger finger.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Pain or tenderness
  • The inability to straighten your finger
  • A catching, clicking or locking sensation
  • Stiffness in the finger, particularly in the morning

Treatment and Recovery

A physical examination is typically all that is needed to diagnose trigger finger. Restoration of motion and the elimination of any uncomfortable sensations (such as clicking, locking or popping) are the goal of a trigger finger treatment plan. Surgery is often not required to treat the condition. Your physician will likely prescribe a series of conservative, non-surgical options to help limit the affects of trigger finger. Those options may include over-the-counter medications to reduce inflammation, splinting of the finger, or modification of the behavior that caused the inflammation. Simple stretching exercises may be recommended by a hand therapist.

For more serious cases, localized corticosteroid injections or an outpatient procedure may be necessary. Your physician may perform a basic procedure in the office to release the constriction that causes the narrowing or irritation. If surgery is necessary, a small incision will be made at the base of the finger by your hand surgeon to cut open the constricted area of tissue.

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