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Trigger finger (“stenosing tenosynovitis”) is an inflammation of the tissue inside your finger or thumb, causing pain, stiffness and a sensation of locking or catching when you bend or straighten your finger.
With trigger finger or trigger thumb, the flexor tendons become swollen along with the sheath and synovium, soft tissue that allows the tendons to move easily within its sheath. This makes it hard to straighten the finger or thumb. Your finger may bend or straighten with a snap, like a trigger being pulled and released.
Trigger finger most often occurs in the ring finger and thumb, but it can occur in other fingers, more than one finger at the same time, and in both hands. In severe cases, the finger becomes locked in a bent position.
If you are experiencing a triggering or other symptoms in your finger(s) or thumb(s), see a UCHealth orthopedic specialist for medical advice, a diagnosis, and a personalized treatment plan.
Your treatment depends on the severity of the condition. The sooner you take steps to relieve the inflammation, the better your outcome will be.
We can’t always determine the cause of trigger finger, but we frequently see it happen from repeated use of a tool with strong gripping, such as a drill or wrench. It is also more common in people with certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout and diabetes. To diagnose trigger finger, your provider will look for typical signs and symptoms, such as:
Your provider will also perform a physical exam and may order imaging tests for a proper diagnosis. Trigger finger is not a form of arthritis and will not heal on its own, so you will need treatment.
Your provider will customize the best treatment plan for you based on the severity of your case. Typically, a patient with trigger finger will start with conservative, nonsurgical treatments, such as:
If your symptoms are severe or if conservative treatments aren’t working, your provider might recommend a surgical treatment called tenolysis. In this procedure, your orthopedic surgeon makes a small incision near the base of your affected finger, then cuts open the constricted section of tendon sheath so the flexor tendon can glide more easily through the sheath.
Swelling and stiffness should go away completely in four to six months. In severe cases where a contracture, or loss of motion, was present before surgery, we may not be able to restore a complete range of motion.
Most of our patients respond successfully to conservative treatments, and our patients who do have surgery experience significant improvement in function as well as relief from the pain.
Let us work with you on a treatment plan that will help you get beyond trigger finger and back to the daily activities you love.