Thumbnail image of: Trigger Finger: Illustration

Trigger Finger

What is trigger finger?

Trigger finger is a problem with the tendons in your hand that makes it hard for you to straighten 1 or more fingers after you bend them. Tendons are strong bands of tissue that attach muscle to bone. A sheath, or covering, surrounds the tendons that go to your fingers. Tendons usually move easily through the sheaths. Trigger finger is an irritation and thickening of a tendon sheath that traps your tendon or makes it difficult for your tendon to move through the sheath.

Trigger finger is also called stenosing tenosynovitis or digital flexor tenosynovitis.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of trigger finger is not known. It may be that trigger finger is caused by overuse of the hand and fingers, such as from work or sports that use your fingers a lot. You may be more likely to get trigger finger if you have diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the symptoms?

Trigger finger can happen in your thumb or any finger, but your middle and ring finger are affected most often. Symptoms may include:

  • A snap, pop or sudden jerk (“trigger” motion) when you try to straighten your finger
  • Not being able to straighten your finger at all
  • Pain at the base of your finger or palm, or in your fingers

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history. You may have X-rays or other scans.

How is it treated?

Your provider may give your finger a shot of steroid medicine to reduce the irritation and swelling so that the tendon can slide more easily through the sheath. You may need a brace to prevent locking of your finger. In some cases you may need surgery to remove part of the tendon sheath.

How can I take care of myself?

To help relieve swelling and pain:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth, on the area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Take nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take these medicines for more than 10 days.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age.
    • Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Unless recommended by your provider, don’t take more than 3000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours. To make sure you don’t take too much, check other medicines you take to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Ask your provider if you need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid, including how much you can lift, and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent trigger finger?

Since the cause of trigger finger is not known, there is no sure way to prevent it. Follow safety rules and use any protective equipment recommended for your work or sport. Avoid activities that cause pain.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-21
Last reviewed: 2014-10-13
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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