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Health Services

Trigger Finger/Thumb

What is it?

Trigger Finger or Thumb is a condition that impacts ones ability to bend and straighten the finger because of swelling in the tendon of that finger. The normal gliding of the tendon on the bone in the finger is sometimes described as how a fishing line is guided along a fishing pole. The fishing pole is like the bone in the finger, the line is like the tendon, and the rings guiding the line along the pole are like the pulleys found in the finger. With trigger finger, the area of inflammation along the tendon creates a nodule that gets stuck on the pulley. When this area finally passes through the pulley it causes a triggering or snapping in the finger.

Signs and Symptoms of this Condition

◾Pain and a clicking sensation when the finger or thumb is bent
◾Pain upon bending or straightening the finger or thumb
◾A snapping release of the finger when straightening
◾The finger or thumb becoming locked in the bent position


◾Rheumatoid arthritis
◾Partial tendon lacerations
◾Repeated trauma from pistol-gripped power tools
◾Long hours grasping a steering wheel
◾Congenital Defect

Prevention / What You Can Do At Home

Avoiding repetitive use of certain power tools can help prevent trigger finger. However, it is most important to seek early treatment when signs/symptoms begin to avoid the need for surgery.


Prognosis is good with both conservative and invasive treatment available.


Rest to allow the inflammation in the tendon to decrease is often accomplished using splinting. If this is not successful, a cortisone injection may be used. The most invasive treatment involves surgery to cut the pulley that the tendon is being caught on in half so that it no longer causes the triggering. This may be followed by therapy depending on how severe the condition was before surgery. Range of motion exercises are typically given.


The information on this website is meant for patient education and to provide home treatment options for some common muscular and skeletal injuries. It is not intended to replace your health care provider. Many are actually intended for use by your health care provider through referral to the website for appropriate self-care interventions. If your symptoms get worse; are not improving in two weeks despite treatment; or new unexplained symptoms develop, you should contact or follow-up with your health care provider.
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