Trigger finger

Person with bent fingers

​Trigger finger is a type of tenosynovitis, which is closely linked to tendonitis. It can also affect the thumbs (known as trigger thumb). Trigger finger occurs when the lining of the tendon sheath around a tendon becomes inflamed and thickens. This inflammation and thickening makes it difficult to bend and straighten the finger or thumb, causing it to lock or “trigger.” 

The causes of trigger finger are not well known, however, people who experience forceful hand activities or have diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis are at higher risk for this condition. 

Trigger finger symptoms 

Signs and symptoms of trigger finger include:

  • Difficulty flexing fingers and/or thumbs 

  • Inability/difficulty extending fingers and/or thumbs  

  • Involuntary locking of fingers or thumb

  • Pain in fingers and/or thumbs 

Trigger finger diagnosis 

To diagnose trigger finger, your doctor will review your symptoms, health history, any current or prior injuries, and examine your finger for stiffness and signs of locking. In some cases, an X-ray may be done.

Trigger finger treatment 

There are multiple factors that your doctor will consider when determining a treatment plan for trigger finger, including your age, current pain level and functional ability of your fingers and/or thumbs. 

The most common treatment options for trigger finger include: 

  • Anti-inflammatory medication—non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin.  

  • Cortisone injections—to minimize pain and swelling.

  • Physical therapy—exercises to strengthen and regain range of motion in the finger or thumb. 

  • Splinting—wearing a splint that keeps the affected finger or thumb in a straight position.

  • Surgery—if your finger or thumb does not improve with nonsurgical treatment, your doctor may recommend a trigger finger release procedure.

You can rely on the expertise of our orthopedic specialists to help you manage trigger finger.

Find a hand and wrist specialist near you.