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Understanding Trigger Finger and Trigger Thumb: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment


Trigger Finger, Trigger finger symptoms, trigger finger causes, trigger finger treatment

Trigger finger and trigger thumb can be extremely painful and significantly impair your finger mobility, affecting your day-to-day activities. This article is essential reading for anyone experiencing these symptoms or looking to understand more about this condition. Our goal is to assist you in effectively managing and minimising the discomfort associated with trigger finger and trigger thumb.

To find out about other more common hand and wrist conditions, see our guides to hand therapy and fractures.

Article Outline

  1. What is Trigger Finger?
  2. Symptoms of Trigger Finger
  3. What Are the Main Causes of Trigger Finger
  4. How is Trigger Finger Diagnosed?
  5. Treatment Options for Trigger Finger
  6. The Role of Surgery in Treating Trigger Finger
  7. Managing Trigger Finger at Home
  8. Prevention of Trigger Finger
  9. Understanding Trigger Thumb
  10. FAQs About Trigger Finger and Trigger Thumb

What Is Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger is a condition where one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position and then suddenly straightens. This happens due to the inflammation of the tendons that control finger movement. The affected finger can be quite painful and may “click” when moved.

Trigger finger occurs when the tendons in the finger become inflamed and thicken, making it difficult for them to glide smoothly through the tendon sheath. This condition can affect any finger, including the thumb, and is often referred to as stenosing tenosynovitis.

Symptoms of Trigger Finger

The symptoms of trigger finger can vary from mild to severe. Common symptoms include:

  • A clicking or popping sensation when moving the finger
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Tenderness or a bump at the base of the affected finger
  • Pain when bending or straightening the finger
  • The finger getting stuck in a bent position, then suddenly straightening

In severe cases, the finger may become locked in a bent position and may need to be straightened with the help of the other hand. Stiffness and discomfort are common, and the finger may also swell.

What Are the Main Causes of Trigger Finger

The exact cause of trigger finger is not always clear, but several factors can increase the risk of developing this condition. These include:

  • Repeated hand use and gripping
  • Conditions like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis increase risk
  • Gender, with women being more likely to develop trigger finger
  • Age, as it is more common in people aged 40 to 60

How Is Trigger Finger Diagnosed?

Diagnosing trigger finger involves a physical examination where the doctor will ask about your symptoms and check for signs such as:

  • Tenderness or a bump at the base of the affected finger
  • Difficulty in bending and straightening the finger
  • Clicking or popping sensations

In some cases, tests to diagnose trigger finger may be recommended, including imaging tests to rule out other conditions. The doctor may also move the finger to see if it gets stuck or to feel the tendons as they move.

Treatment Options for Trigger Finger

Treatment for trigger finger depends on the severity of the condition. Non-surgical treatments are often the first line of defense and can include:

  • Rest and avoid activities that worsen symptoms.
  • Splinting the finger to keep it in a straight position
  • Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and swelling
  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation

In many cases, these treatments can significantly reduce symptoms and allow for normal finger movement. However, if symptoms persist, more aggressive treatments may be needed.

The Role of Surgery in Treating Trigger Finger

When non-surgical treatments fail to relieve symptoms, surgery may be recommended. Surgery for trigger finger involves releasing the affected tendon to allow for smoother movement. There are two main types of surgery:

  • Open surgery: A small incision is made in the palm to release the tendon.
  • Percutaneous release: A needle is used to release the tendon without making a large incision.

Both procedures aim to provide permanent relief from symptoms. The good news is that trigger finger surgery is usually successful, with a high rate of recovery and minimal complications. Our Hand Therapists will be able to help you find an appropriate hand surgeon to look at you should it be needed.

Managing Trigger Finger at Home

There are several home management strategies that can help alleviate the symptoms of trigger finger:

  • Rest: Avoid activities that require repetitive gripping or hand use.
  • Splinting: Wearing a splint can help keep the finger straight and reduce strain on the tendon.
  • Stretching exercises: Gentle stretching can improve flexibility and reduce stiffness.

It’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations and not to push through pain, as this can worsen the condition.

Prevention of Trigger Finger

Preventing trigger finger involves minimising strain on your fingers and hands. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid repetitive gripping activities
  • Use ergonomic tools to reduce strain
  • Take regular breaks when performing tasks that involve extensive hand use
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of conditions like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

By taking these precautions, you can lower your risk of developing a trigger finger and maintain healthy hand function.

Understanding Trigger Thumb

Trigger Thumb, Trigger thumb symptoms, trigger thumb causes, trigger thumb treatment

Trigger thumb, a variant of trigger finger, specifically affects the thumb. The symptoms and causes are similar, including:

  • Pain and stiffness in the thumb
  • A clicking or popping sensation
  • The thumb gets stuck in a bent position.

Trigger thumb is treated similarly to trigger finger, with options ranging from splinting and anti-inflammatory drugs to steroid injections and surgery. Congenital trigger thumb can also occur in infants and young children, usually requiring surgical intervention.

FAQs About Trigger Finger and Trigger Thumb

How Common Is Trigger Finger?

The risk of developing a trigger finger is low with a lifetime risk of between 2 and 3%. The risk however increases to around 10% in diabetics. The highest incidence is in the middle fifth to sixth decades of life, and it is up to six times more common in women than men. (x)

What are the main symptoms of trigger finger?

The main symptoms include a clicking or popping sensation, stiffness, tenderness at the base of the finger, pain, and the finger getting stuck in a bent position.

How is trigger finger diagnosed?

Trigger finger is diagnosed through a physical examination and sometimes imaging tests. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and check for tenderness, swelling, and the characteristic clicking or popping sound.

What treatment options are available?

Treatment options range from rest, splinting, and NSAIDs to steroid injections and surgery. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms.

What Is The Best Way To Fix A Trigger Finger?

The best way to fix your trigger finger without the need for surgery is to initially rest it from repeated gripping tasks or from the use of heavy vibrating machinery. Regularly stretching the finger and the use of a splint. Our team of expert Hand Therapists can guide you through the best options to help your hand recover.

Can trigger finger be prevented?

Yes, trigger finger can be prevented by avoiding repetitive gripping activities, using ergonomic tools, taking breaks during hand-intensive tasks, and maintaining overall health to reduce the risk of diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Will Trigger Finger Go Away On Its Own?

In our experience, for some people their trigger finger can sometimes improve and even go away without treatment. A study done in 2018 (s) showed that just over 50% of cases resolved without intervention. This was as much as 72% in the case of trigger thumb.

Is It Okay to Massage a Trigger Finger?

Yes, it is completely safe and one of the easiest things you can do yourself to help it. Our team of expert hand therapists can show you the most effective way to do it too!

What Happens If Trigger Finger Is Left Untreated?

If left untreated, trigger finger can sometimes progress to the point where your thumb and another finger become locked in either a bent or straight position. In the most severe instances, you might encounter difficulty in straightening your finger without the aid of your other hand.

Does A Splint Help Trigger Finger?

The use of a splint has consistently shown to improve both objective and subjective outcomes for people suffering with a trigger finger or thumb (y), (z). All of our team are trained in making custom thermoplastic splints.


Trigger finger and trigger thumb are painful conditions that can affect daily activities. By understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options, you can take steps to manage and alleviate the discomfort associated with these conditions. Remember these key points:

  • Trigger finger involves the inflammation of tendons, causing pain and stiffness.
  • Symptoms include a clicking sensation, tenderness, and the finger getting stuck in a bent position.
  • Treatment options include rest, splinting, NSAIDs, steroid injections, and surgery.
  • Preventative measures can help reduce the risk of developing trigger finger.

Understanding and addressing trigger finger early can lead to better outcomes and a more comfortable, pain-free life. You can make an appointment with our London-based Hand Therapy Service by calling 02074046343 or email [email protected]


s – McKee, D., Lalonde, J., and Lalonde D., How Many Trigger Fingers Resolve Spontaneously Without Any Treatment? Plastic Surgery 26:1, 52-54 (2018)

x – Makkouk, A.H., Oetgen, M.E., Swigart, C.R. et al. Trigger finger: etiology, evaluation, and treatment. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med 1, 92–96 (2008).

y – Colbourn, J., Heath, N., Manary, S., et al. Effectiveness of Splinting for the Treatment of Trigger Finger. Journal of Hand Therapy 21:4, 336-343 (2008).

z – Lunsford, D., Valdes, K., and Hengy, S. Conservative Management of Trigger Finger: A Systematic Review. Journal of Hand Therapy 32:2, 212-221 (2019).

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