This factsheet is for people who have trigger finger, or who would like information about it.
Trigger Finger Video
Trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis) is a condition where the finger or thumb clicks, or gets locked in place, when it’s bent towards the palm.
- About trigger finger
- Symptoms of trigger finger
- Causes of trigger finger
- Diagnosis of trigger finger
- Treatment of trigger finger
About trigger finger
Tendons run along the length of each of your fingers connecting your finger bones to the muscles in your forearms. You are able to move your fingers using these muscles – there are no muscles in your fingers. The tendons are surrounded by a tube called a tendon sheath. Your tendons should move smoothly in and out of these sheaths as you bend and straighten your fingers.
Trigger finger happens when part of the tendon in your finger becomes inflamed and swollen, causing it to catch on the opening of the tendon sheath at the base of your finger where a ligament (A1 pulley) passes over it. This catching can cause a clicking sensation and your finger can sometimes gets stuck (locked) in a bent position.
Around two in 100 people are affected by trigger finger. It commonly affects your ring or middle finger but can also affect your thumb; this is called trigger thumb. Several of your fingers can be affected at one time.
Trigger ﬁnger is more common in women than men. People of any age can get it (including children) but most people who get trigger finger are between 50 and 60.
Symptoms of trigger finger
Symptoms of trigger finger include:
- a clicking sensation when you try to move your finger
- your finger getting stuck (locked) in a bent position – you will probably need to pull it straight with your other hand
- pain in your palm
- tenderness and pain in your finger, particularly when you grip
- stiffness in your finger, which may be worse first thing in the morning
Causes of trigger finger
Trigger finger is caused by inflammation of part of the tendon in your finger. In most people there is no clear cause of this inflammation but it can sometimes happen if you overuse your finger doing activities that require repetitive gripping actions. For example, if you regularly use heavy gardening shears. Rarely, trigger finger can be caused by an injury to your hand.
Trigger finger is more common in people with certain health conditions, including:
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis – an inflammatory condition that can cause you to develop nodules (bumps) in your tendons
- an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
- amyloidosis – a group of diseases in which deposits of abnormal proteins (known as amyloid) build up in one or more of your organs
Diagnosis of trigger finger
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He or she may also ask you about your medical history.
When your doctor examines your hand, he or she will feel the affected finger to see if there is tenderness or a nodule in your palm at the base of your affected finger. Your doctor may ask you to bend and straighten your fingers while he or she feels the palm of your hand, as this is where the catching of the tendon happens.
If your doctor is unable to diagnose trigger finger by examining you, he or she may refer you to have an ultrasound scan.
If your doctor suspects that you have trigger finger, he or she may refer you to a specialist hand surgeon to confirm your diagnosis.
Treatment of trigger finger
Trigger finger can sometimes get better within a few weeks without any treatment. There are a number of treatment options if it does persist.
If possible, try not to do any activities that cause you pain.
Your doctor may inject into the inflamed area of your tendon. This will reduce the inflammation, so your symptoms should improve. You may see an improvement a few days after the injection, but it can take up to a few weeks before you notice any difference. The site of the injection may feel tender afterwards. If one injection doesn’t help, you may be given a second injection.
If your trigger finger is mild, you may be able to treat it with a splint. A splint can be fitted by your doctor or a hand therapist. You can then put it on your finger at night to keep it straight.
You will usually only need to have trigger finger release surgery if all other types of treatment haven’t worked, your finger is locked (permanently stuck), or if another condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, is the cause of your trigger finger. Surgery is very effective and is usually a permanent solution to the problem.
You will usually have local anaesthesia before the operation. This will be injected into the palm of your hand to numb the area.
Your surgeon will make a small cut into the palm of your hand. He or she will release the tendon from the part of the sheath it was catching on. The wound will be closed using stitches and covered with a small dressing. You will need to keep the dressing in place for a week or two after the operation.