Trigger finger

Stenosing tenosynovitis, also known as trigger finger, makes your finger or thumb more difficult to move smoothly. The finger gets stuck in a bent position, and when you try to move it, the finger snaps or pops into its straightened position.

Finger movement is guided by tendons, which are flexible cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Tendons pass through tunnels called tendon sheaths that guide them smoothly as they move back and forth. When a tendon sheath swells or becomes scarred or irritated, the tendon cannot glide freely, and the finger’s movement is affected.

Symptoms

Early signs of trigger finger include:

  • Pain at the base of the finger
  • A lump at the base of the finger on the palm side of the hand
  • A catching or snapping sensation when moving the finger

Causes and risk factors

Trigger finger can happen at any age, but it is more common in people who are over age 45. It is more common in women.

Usually the cause of trigger finger is not known, but it is more common in people who:

  • Have a medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes
  • Do a job or other activity that requires a lot of gripping
  • Have recently had carpal tunnel syndrome surgery

Treatment options

Treatment of less-severe cases of trigger finger may include:

  • Rest
  • A splint, a brace, or tape to limit finger movement
  • Anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to reduce pain
  • Changes in activity or lifestyle
  • Exercises to help the finger stay flexible

Your doctor may also try a steroid injection to reduce the swelling in the tendon sheath.

Trigger finger may also be treated with surgery. A small cut in the tendon sheath can help the tendon move freely again. Recovery from the surgery typically takes about two weeks.

Last reviewed: 
November 2017

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