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What is trigger finger?

Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a painful condition that occurs when the pulleys that guide the tendons in your fingers or thumb become stuck the bent position. This occurs when the tendon becomes enlarged, the thickness of the tendon’s lining increases or the pulley that guides the tendon thickens. It can cause a locking or popping when you straighten your thumb or fingers. Your doctor will explain your specific case in more detail, but these are some common questions asked of trigger finger doctors.


What is the cause of my trigger finger?

Trigger finger can be caused by repetitive gripping, grasping or extended use of vibrating machinery. Health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout and diabetes are also risk factors for trigger finger. Discuss your potential causes of trigger finger with your doctor to possibly help determine your cause/s and reduce or eliminate them moving forward.


What are the symptoms?

Trigger finger can cause pain at the base of the affected finger or thumb where it connects to the palm. Swelling may occur over time due to a swollen nodule or a fluid filled cyst known as a ganglion cyst. A decrease in the ability to bend or straighten the finger or thumb may be experienced. A popping or locking sensation may be felt when the finger is bent. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor to help them determine your best treatment path.


How is trigger finger treated?

The sooner the condition is treated, the higher the chances that non-surgical treatments will alleviate trigger finger. Your doctor will discuss your non-surgical treatment options which may include:

  • Nightly use of a splint

  • Oral anti-inflammatory medications

  • Limiting activity that aggravates the condition

  • A steroid injection into the sheath of the tendon

  • Physical therapy and home exercises


If determined necessary by your hand surgeon, surgery may be needed to relieve trigger finger. Your hand surgeon may cut the pulley at the base of the finger that is preventing the tendon from gliding. Rarely, a flexor tenosynovectomy may be required where the thickened lining on the surface of the tendons is removed. In some cases, trigger finger is immediately resolved after surgery. In other cases, hand therapy and exercises may be needed to help further improve range of motion.

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