Trigger Finger: Causes and Treatment

Updated: Jan 27





What is trigger finger?

Trigger finger is a hand condition where a finger clicks while making a fist or gets stuck in a bent position after making a fist. It can affect any of the fingers but the thumb, ring and middle fingers are most commonly affected. More than one finger can be affected at a time. Symptoms can present during the day with activities involving repeated gripping movement or at night if sleeping with closed fists. Women are 2 to 6 times more frequently affected than men, with an average age of 58 years old for occurrence.


What causes trigger finger?

The tendon that allows the fingers to bend travels through a tunnel in the hand and fingers. Trigger finger is caused by the inflammation of this tendon. With inflammation, the tendon becomes thicker and larger causing it to bunch up and buckle as it tries to glide through the tunnel, leading to clicking and sometimes locking.


Trigger finger is often caused by activities requiring repetitive bending of the hand (knitting, texting, weight lifting, martial arts, etc.). Some individuals are also genetically pre-disposed to developing trigger finger.


Symptoms of trigger finger include:

  • Pain in the palm just below the affected finger

  • Bump or lump (nodule) in your palm, just below the affected finger

  • Clicking or popping when bending or straightening your finger

  • Finger locking after bending it and snapping back straight

  • Finger locking after bending it and inability to straighten it again


How to treat trigger finger?

Conservative management via hand therapy is always the first course of treatment for trigger finger. Resting the affected finger is key. Since trigger finger is caused by inflammation of the tendon, rest is required to reduce inflammation and allow for smooth gliding of the tendon through the tunnel. A custom hand orthosis (hand splint/hand brace) is the best way to achieve this. Depending on which finger(s) is/are affected and the severity of your symptoms, various types of orthoses can be fabricated by your hand therapist to provide rest to the finger while allowing you to continue with your daily activities. You may however have to temporarily avoid some activities that are aggravating your symptoms. Your hand therapist will also show you some specific exercises to work on at home to help maintain joint movement and tendon gliding.


Remember that the faster you start treatment, the quicker and easier recovery will be.


If you want to learn more about trigger finger or would like to see one of our hand therapists, give us a call or book an appointment online!



 

References

  1. Lee M.P., Biafora S.J., Zelouf D.S (2021) Management of Hand and Wrist Tendinopathies. In T. M. Skirven (Ed.) Rehabilitation of the Hand and Upper Extremity (7th edition, Volume 1, 498-517) Philadelphia: Elsevier

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