The Truth About Trigger Finger

Trigger finger may sound like a made-up term straight out of a western movie, but ask anyone who has experienced the symptoms of trigger finger (also known as stenosing tenosynovitis) and they will tell you just how debilitating and uncomfortable it can be. A locked thumb or finger can be incredibly painful and interfere with everyday life. It can hurt whether or not you’re using your hand and cause immense frustration because you’re not being able to do the things you normally can do, from buttoning your clothes to blow drying your hair. Let’s delve into what trigger finger is—how you can recognize its symptoms, prevent and treat it.

What is Trigger Finger Anyway?

Trigger finger is when your fingers or thumb get stuck in a bent position as if you were squeezing a trigger. Your finger may bend or straighten with a snap, similar to when a trigger is pulled and released. Trigger finger occurs when inflammation narrows the space within the sheath surrounding the tendon in the affected finger.

The Symptoms of Trigger Finger

Typically, symptoms of trigger finger are worse in the morning and start to relax as the day goes on. Common early symptoms of trigger finger may include:

  • Finger stiffness
  • As you move your finger there is a popping or clicking sensation
  • A bump in the palm at the base of the affected finger
  • Tenderness
  • Finger locking in a bent position which can suddenly pop straight
  • Finger locked in a bent position without the ability to straighten
  • Soreness at the base of the finger or thumb in the palm
  • Inability to fully flex the finger

Common Causes of Trigger Finger

Who gets trigger finger?

  • People who have rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, osteoarthritis or gout
  • People between the ages of 40 and 60 years old
  • Women—trigger finger is more common in women
  • People who have jobs, hobbies or tasks that require repetitive motions, strong gripping or grasping, frequent or forceful use of the fingers and/or thumb. For example, musicians or farmers often suffer from trigger finger since they rely on their fingers or thumbs for multiple repetitive movements.

How to Treat Trigger Finger

Thankfully this condition can be treated by many different remedies. Some of these remedies may include:

  • Trigger finger exercises
  • Wearing a splint at night to keep the affected finger straight while you sleep
  • Steroid injections
  • Surgery
  • Resting the hand and refraining from any activities that require repetitive motion
  • Taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen
  • Gently stretching your fingers to enhance their range of motion
  • Ice and cold therapy
  • Hand therapy

Avoiding certain activities and lifestyle changes are often effective treatments for trigger finger.

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