Trigger Finger: What You Need to Know

When one of the fingers get stuck in a bent position, it can result to a condition known as trigger finger.

Also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, trigger finger develops when the sheath surrounding the tendon in the affected finger becomes inflamed.

In severe cases of the condition, there is a possibility for the affected finger to become locked in a bent position.

Individuals with hobbies and work that involve repetitive gripping actions are more susceptible to developing the condition.

Trigger finger has also been observed to be more common in women and those with diabetes.

Treatment of the condition will depend on the severity.

Treatment options can range from noninvasive alternatives to trigger finger surgery.

What are the most prevalent symptoms that signal the condition?

Symptoms of the condition can progress from mild to severe and can include:

  • Stiffness of the finger (especially noticeable in the mornings)
  • Clicking or popping sensation (especially when the finger is moved)
  • Bump (nodule) or tenderness in the palm (situated in the affected finger’s base)
  • Finger locking or catching
  • Finger is locked in a bent position

Trigger finger often affects the middle and ring finger as well as the thumb.

In some cases, more than one finger can become affected.

The condition can also affect both hands.

The triggering is more noticeable when straightening the finger, firmly grasping an object, and early in the morning.

When is a visit to the doctor necessary?

If catching in the finger joint and stiffness is felt, it would be best to bring it to the doctor’s attention so symptoms will be reviewed and a physical examination of the hand can be conducted.

In addition, if hotness and inflammation of the finger joint is observed, seeking immediate medical attention is also recommended as it can signal possible infection.

How is trigger finger diagnosed?

Diagnosing the condition will not involve elaborate testing.

The doctor will often make the diagnosis based on the patient’s medical history as well as a physical examination of the hand.

During the physical examination, the patient will be asked to open and close the hand so the doctor can check for evidence of locking and areas of pain.

The doctor will also likely check if any lump is present.

Lumps associated with trigger finger will move when the finger moves as it is attached to the tendon.

What are the treatment options available for trigger finger?

Treatment for the condition will vary, depending on the duration and severity.

Some of the treatment options available include:


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Motrin IB and Advil) may help ease the pain. However, NSAIDs cannot relieve the swelling.


  • Heat or ice – some patients notice significant improvement when icing the palm several times daily. Others however experience relief when doing warm water soaks especially in the mornings.
  • Splint – wearing a night splint for up to six weeks might be recommended to help keep the affected finger in extended position. The splint helps by allowing the tendon to rest.
  • Stretching exercises – to help maintain finger mobility, gentle exercises will be suggested.

Surgery and Other Procedures

Steroid injection – injecting a steroid medication into the tendon sheath can help reduce the inflammation, allowing the tendon to freely glide again. This treatment option is one of the most common. It has been known effective in 90 percent of the patients without diabetes.

Surgery – the surgeon will cut open the tendon sheath’s constricted section through a small incision near the affected finger’s base. This procedure is often performed in the operating room.

Percutaneous release – once the palm has been numbed, the doctor will then insert a needle into the tissue around the tendon affected. Moving the finger and the needle is done to help break apart the constriction. The procedure can be carried out in the procedure room or the doctor’s office.