Tendons connect bones to muscles in the body. Flexor tendons of the thumb and fingers pull the fingers into a fist. The tendons are enclosed in a synovial sheath. When this sheath becomes inflamed it can cause trigger finger.
Usually, tendons slide easily through the sheath as the finger moves. In the case of trigger finger, the synovial sheath is swollen. The tendon cannot move easily. This causes the finger to remain in a flexed (bent) position. In mild cases, the finger may be straightened with a pop. In severe cases, the finger becomes stuck in the bent position. Usually, this condition can easily be treated. Contact your doctor if you think you may have trigger finger.
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Often, the cause of trigger finger is unknown. However, many cases of trigger finger are caused by
The following factors increase your chance of developing trigger finger:
If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to trigger finger. Some of these symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. If you experience any one of them for a period of time, see your physician.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The physical exam may include:
For severe cases, your doctor may refer you to a hand specialist.
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. The goal of treatment is to reduce swelling and pain. This will allow the tendon to move freely in the sheath. Treatment options include the following:
Stopping movement in the finger or thumb is often the best treatment for mild cases of trigger finger. A brace or splint may be used. Rest may be combined with stretching the tendon.
Several medications are used to treat tenosynovitis. These include:
Severe cases of trigger finger may not respond to medications. In this case, surgery may be used to release the tendon from a locked position. This surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis. It only requires a small incision in the palm of the hand.
If you are diagnosed with trigger finger, follow your doctor's instructions.
Avoid overuse of your thumb and fingers. If you have a job or hobby that involves repetitive motions of the hand, you can take the following steps:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Society for Surgery of the Hand
The Arthritis Society
Salim N, Abdullah S, et al. Outcome of corticosteroid injection versus physiotherapy in the treatment of mild trigger fingers. J Hand Surg Eur Vol . 2011 Aug 4.
Trigger finger. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated June 12, 2012. Accessed October 24, 2012.
Vance MC, Tucker JJ, et al. The association of hemoglobin a1c with the prevalence of stenosing flexor tenosynovitis. J Hand Surg Am . 2012 Sep;37(9):1765-1769.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Teresa Briedwell, DPT, OCS
Last Updated: 9/30/2013