Trigger Finger Treatment

  • Trigger finger is tightness and catching of your tendons in your hand
  • In trigger finger, you may have a painful bump in your hand with associated pain, stiffness and locking of your finger
  • Trigger finger can be treated with splinting and steroid injections
  • Surgery for trigger finger may be needed if you have persistent pain & finger locking. It is a more definitive way to treat trigger finger

What is Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger, more technically known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition that affects the tendons of your fingers or your thumb. It is common cause of hand pain. It results in painful, popping or catching of your finger with difficulty in finger bending or straightening. It is called “trigger finger” because the finger may lock in a bent position and as you try to straighten it, it suddenly snaps or “triggers” straight.

There are several tendons that move each finger. Tendons that bend you fingers are called flexor tendons. These tendons pass through pass through a protective tunnel, or pulley, system. This tunnel system keeps your flexor tendons in place and allow them to move in a predictable way when you bend your fingers. In trigger finger, these tunnels become inflamed and thickened, causing narrowing of the tunnel and making it difficult for the tendon to glide smoothly through it. This cases impingement of the flexor tendon of the the affected finger leading to catching or locking of your finger.

The exact cause of trigger finger is often not known. Trigger fingers most commonly occur in healthy patients with an otherwise normal hand (primary trigger finger). In some cases trigger finger, can be caused by secondary causes, such as diabetes, gout, renal disease, rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory conditions (secondary trigger finger).


trigger finger

Trigger Finger

Trigger finger causes pain and difficulty with movement. It can cause your finger to get stuck in a bend position

hand pain

Hand Pain

Hand and finger pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, including a trigger finger

Are are the symptoms of trigger finger?

The first symptom of trigger finger is usually pain, followed by finger stiffness. You may not feel actually triggering or popping of your finger early on as this may develop over time. These early mechanical symptoms can progress to true locking of your finger, when your finger is stuck in a bend position and you need to straighten it by using your other hand. It is rare for your finger to lock in a straight position with trigger finger. General symptoms of trigger finger are:


  1. Pain or discomfort when bending or straightening the finger.
  2. Finger stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
  3. A painful bump at the base of the affected finger. You may feel this bump become more prominent when you move your finger.
  4. Locking of your finger  in a bent position and sudden release or triggering with a snapping sensation.

Which fingers can be involved?

The thumb is most commonly affected by triggering, followed by the ring finger, middle finger, little finger and index finger. Triggering may afffect more than one finger. This can either happen at the same time or develop gradually over time.

What is the treatment for trigger finger or trigger thumb?

Many trigger fingers can treated without surgery.  Treatment options for trigger finger include:

  1. Rest and activity modification: Avoid activities that aggravate your trigger finger. 
  2. Splinting: Wearing a splint to immobilise your affected finger can provide rest and support to the tendon. You will need to see a hand therapist to make a splint for you.
  3. Corticosteroid injections: If you  have primary trigger finger,  a corticosteroid injection may be effective at treating your symptoms. The success rate is about 60-70%. If you have secondary trigger finger, i.e. if your trigger finger is cause by diabetes or other conditions, the success rate is lower at 40-50%.

Do you need surgery for trigger finger?

Surgery for trigger finger is a more definitive and effective treatment. It is generally recommended when:

  • You have tried non-operative treatment, but are getting persistent triggering, pain and stiffness.
  • If persistent non-operative treatment is not practical and interferes with your daily activities or work
  • You have progressive symptoms. This is usually where your finger or thumb locks frequently and you need to “unlock” it.


What surgery can be done for trigger finger?

Surgery for trigger finger is done through a small incision at the base of the affected finger or thumb. The thickened and inflamed tendon sheath is released to make room for the tendon to move and glide freely again. After the procedure, you can move your finger straight away and should be able to regain most movement after two weeks after surgery.

Get Expert Help

If you have hand stiffness or pain, it is important to get your hand and wrist evaluated and perform appropriate diagnostic tests. Dr Arthur Turow is an Australian trained shoulder surgeon based in Adelaide. He will provide personalised recommendations and guide you through your treatment process.

Please use above information as a guide only. More detailed information specific to your condition and your recovery will be given in your consultation with Dr. Arthur Turow, who will also provide additional resources to supplement your discussion. For more information, please contact the rooms of Dr. Arthur Turow on (08) 8236 4179.