The pain, stiffness, and other symptoms caused by trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis) are more than just a nuisance. They can make it hard for you to perform any activity that requires using your hand.
Fortunately, there are several nonsurgical and surgical treatments for trigger finger—and you’ll find them here in Iowa.
University of Iowa Health Care is home to orthopedic specialists with advanced training in hand and wrist care. We routinely help people with trigger finger regain their normal hand and finger movements.
Whether you’re looking for trigger finger exercises or surgery, you can count on our team for personalized care and support.
Trigger finger causes and symptoms
Trigger finger is a condition that affects the tendons in your hand. It can make it difficult to bend and straighten one or more of your fingers or thumbs.
What causes trigger finger?
Tendons are strong bands of tissue that connect your muscles to your bones. They allow your bones to move in response to muscle activity.
Normally, the tendons attached to your finger bones glide smoothly through an open tunnel (sheath). If one of these tendons becomes inflamed (swollen), it may become too big to slide through the sheath. When this happens, the affected finger can’t move as easily.
Although trigger finger can happen to anyone, it usually occurs in people who:
- Are age 40 and older
- Frequently (and repetitively) use their hands, fingers, and thumbs to grasp or grip things
- Have a medical condition that can cause tendon inflammation, such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis
Trigger finger symptoms
If your thumb or one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position—and you need to use your other hand to pull it straight—that’s a clear sign you probably have trigger finger.
Other, less obvious signs include:
- Pain when you bend or straighten your finger or thumb
- Pain or tenderness in the palm of your hand, especially near the base of your affected finger
- A lump that forms at the base of your finger, on the palm side of your hand
- Finger pain, swelling, or stiffness that’s worse when you wake up. Most of us curl or bend our fingers during sleep, and this can worsen the symptoms of trigger finger.
- Feeling a popping or “catching” sensation when you move your finger
Trigger finger diagnosis
If you have finger pain or stiffness that’s affecting your ability to work or play, contact UI Health Care.
Our orthopedic specialists can quickly and easily confirm whether you have trigger finger and recommend the most effective treatment.
In most cases, we can diagnose trigger finger with a physical examination alone. But if we need to confirm or rule out problems like arthritis or a fractured finger, we can usually perform a same-day X-ray or ultrasound.
Depending on the severity of your trigger finger, we can also perform certain in-office treatments (or schedule you for surgery) the same day you’re diagnosed.
Trigger finger treatment from UI Health Care
When you choose UI Health Care for trigger finger treatment, you’ll receive outstanding care tailored to your medical needs and personal preferences.
Nonsurgical treatments for trigger finger
If your symptoms are mild or infrequent, nonsurgical therapies may be all you need. We can perform (or prescribe) one or more of the following:
- Finger splint: This wearable device holds your finger in a straight position. By limiting finger movement during the day or while asleep, you can minimize further tendon inflammation.
- Medicine: Anti-inflammatory medicines (like ibuprofen) and injectable steroid medicines can control your pain and reduce tendon swelling.
- Trigger finger exercises: Our physical therapists can teach you hand exercises that reduce pain and stiffness and increase finger flexibility.
Trigger finger surgery
If your symptoms are severe—or you still have finger pain, stiffness, and locking after trying nonsurgical treatments—you may need surgery.
It’s natural to want to avoid surgery. But for most people, trigger finger surgery (also known as trigger finger release or tenolysis) cures their pain and stiffness.
Our orthopedic surgeons have experience and expertise in performing trigger finger surgery. It’s a brief procedure that includes the following steps:
- You’ll receive local anesthesia, so you’re awake but comfortable.
- Your surgeon will make a small incision on your palm (above the affected tendon and the surrounding tendon sheath).
- Once the tendon sheath is exposed, they’ll cut into it. This permanently widens the sheath, so your tendon can once again glide through it during finger movement.
- Your surgeon will close the incision on your palm with a couple of stitches.
Trigger finger surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning you’ll be able to go home the same day.