Finger Hand Thumb Trigger Finger

Ask a Doctor: Trigger Finger

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Dr. Sameer Puri answers your most important questions about stenosing tenosynovitis, also known as trigger finger.

My doctor told me I might have a “trigger finger.” What is that?

“Trigger finger,” or stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition that causes pain, locking, popping or clicking of the fingers or thumb when the hand is opened or closed.

What causes trigger finger?

Muscles in your forearm attach to tendons that run all the way to the bones at the ends of your fingers. These muscles help you bend your fingers into a fist. In the hand, the tendons are held close to the bone by pulleys. If the pulleys become too tight or thick, or the tendon gets swollen, the tendon can get stuck. If the tendon cannot glide freely, trigger finger occurs.

What are some of the symptoms of trigger finger?

In its early stages, trigger finger can cause pain. Usually, it is tender on your palm where the finger joins the hand. Sometimes, you feel the pain further along or even on the back of the finger. You might feel like your hands or fingers are stiff or swollen. As it progresses, the tightness can cause the tendon to catch as it tries to glide, leading to a painful snapping sensation when making a fist or opening the hand. Eventually, the finger can get stuck where it is, making it really hard either to straighten or to bend it.

The symptoms are often worst in the mornings immediately after waking up and can occur in any of the fingers or thumbs.

Why did I get trigger finger?

No one knows exactly why this happens. People who have diabetes or other inflammatory conditions seem to be affected more frequently, but it can happen to anyone.

How can you treat trigger finger?

If caught in the early stages, a splint or oral anti-inflammatory medicines may be able to calm down the symptoms. After this, the first line of treatment is usually a small steroid injection into the sheath of the tendon. This helps to decrease the swelling and allow the tendon to glide smoothly again.

If you have had injections that did not work in the past, your symptoms have been happening for a long time, or your finger is stuck in place, your hand surgeon might discuss surgery with you. This involves releasing the pulley that is blocking the tendon(s) from gliding. Most patients are allowed to move the finger and use the hand immediately after surgery. In some cases, your doctor may recommend hand therapy after surgery, but many patients will not require formal therapy to regain their motion.

Learn more about Trigger Finger and other upper extremity conditions at

Sameer Puri, MDSameer Puri, MD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, IL, specializing in hand and upper extremity surgery. He completed his orthopeadic surgery training in Boston at the Tufts Combined Orthopaedic Residency, and completed subspecialty training in hand and upper extremity surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

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  • Adnan
    October 19, 2019 at 1:12 AM

    My little and ring finger of left hand are bended due to a gun injury a long time ago what should i do now?

  • October 9, 2019 at 6:13 PM

    i had mt secon steroid injection two days ago and my finger hurts like hell. i cannot bend my finge. do i need to wait? or shall i do?

  • August 17, 2019 at 5:39 AM

    Great blog, thanks for sharing such great post with us. It is really a very good infomraton you ahve shared

  • stane lunder
    August 13, 2019 at 8:13 AM

    hello…I am from Slovenija (country between Italy an Hungary) From capital town Ljubljana. I practise bioteraphy (maybe is space energy)
    and 5 years ago i save the old man (he is doctor of medicine) who had finger trigger. He havent no problem with f. trigger now.

  • Christa Turner
    July 25, 2019 at 5:42 PM

    I had trigger thumb open surgery a little over ago a ago. The surgeon told me he’d make an incision on my palm but when woke up after surgery I had a cast up to my elbow on. Once he cut the cast off I realized he cut the side of my wrist. I’ve had 3 more injections after the surgery due to the symptoms came back. Now I see a new doctor that wants to perform the procedure in the office with the needle, the second option for trigger thumb (can’t remember he name). I’m very nervous as to what to do. Any advice you could me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  • Jade Oh
    May 20, 2019 at 5:30 AM

    Hi, I would like to comment on some of the management for trigger finger.

    1) Rest finger/thumb with(out) orthosis
    -> you dont want to aggravate the inflamed tendon or force it through the pulley
    2) passively glide the tendon especially stretching the finger straight
    -> so that your finger movement and range are still preserved
    3) give your finger/thumb a break in between tasks OR modify your hand grip (use of bigger joints if possible)
    -> reduce strains on small finger/thumb joint

    All the above suggestions will alleviate some pain and prevent worsening of trigger finger, be it pre-surgery or post surgery. It is advisable to look for a hand certified therapist for proper management of your own trigger finger condition rather than waiting to see how it progress. There are more things that a hand therapist can offer than what I mentioned above.
    REST is still the first line of management to me.
    Good luck people!

  • Tamara Bauer
    January 30, 2019 at 5:00 AM

    I had the A1 pulley release surgery. The first three days I could not feel my fingers, they were very numb. After several weeks I am unable to open my palm all the way because my middle finger. There’s no infection, just signs of my finger being crippled. Before the surgery I could at least lay my hand down flat or open my hand, however, the finger operated on is bent in, like a trigger finger stuck in position and my ring finger is helping it, always bent down as well. I can pull the ring finger and make it stand up completely but not the middle finger. Please tell me anything you can about what’s wrong with my hand. surgery or surgical doctor. I don’t want to have the spider man hand forever, is there any surgeries or therapy that could fix my problem?

  • Linda
    November 26, 2018 at 8:50 AM

    I recently had trigger finger surgery after having pain and clicking of my finger for yrs. Now my finger is arthritic and swollen after too many yrs. of letting it go. I would urge people with trigger finger to take care of it as soon as possible. Did have one steroid injection which only helped for a short time. I am so sorry now that I put off the surgery as now my finger is permanently bent and painful. Wondering if it is posdible to rejuvenate it? My surgeon said there is a 66% chance.

  • Dennis Johnson
    October 31, 2018 at 1:51 PM

    I have a trigger finger in each of my hands. My doctor recommended to have both trigger fingers operated on at the same time. I don’t feel its the right to do both at once. He hasn’t tried “the shot” in one of my hands. Thank you.

  • Rhonda
    March 25, 2018 at 1:10 AM

    Is it possible to need emergency surgery for trigger thumb?
    I’ve got carpal tunnel in both wrists with my right being the worst but I have severe trigger thumb on my left & my orthopedist wants to do surgery like last week on my trigger thumb & also to repair the carpal tunnel on the same hand. But I’m having to wait cause I have new insurance & you know how the pre-existing condition works so I’m stuck in the insurance & waiting 12 month limbo. I’m in such severe pain, it locks & I can’t move it, it burns like fire from the first joint down into the palm of my hand almost all the time, I can’t pick up or hold a glass with my left hand & showering, using the restroom & getting dressed are all so difficult & fustrating. I even loose feeling & experience numbness & tingling, it causes me to have nausea cause the pain is so severe & I have a high tolerance to pain but this is crazy. Please let me know if there’s ever been an emergency surgery for this, I can’t wait a year for this, thank you in advance.

  • Sandra Eggertson
    December 27, 2017 at 4:42 PM

    I had trigger finger on my right hand, and had surgery, now I have it on my left hand, It wasn’t particularly an issue, and seemed to be benefitting from massage…. but the left hand is now compounded and compromised by a TFCC injury (sports related) . I’m 64 , active. which one should I deal with first

  • September 3, 2017 at 6:48 AM

    Thanks for sharing us this blog. it’s really helpful for us. Share similar blog more.

  • July 10, 2017 at 4:11 PM

    Good article, I might add that symptoms can arise from trauma from the flexor tendons of the hands as well. For example, many baggage carriers get trigger fingers.

  • January 17, 2017 at 4:20 AM

    Thank you for sharing this post, Dr. Puri. Trigger finger can be quite painful. Is it possible to cure trigger finger symptoms through exercise?

    • January 25, 2017 at 8:27 PM

      Hyun Bae,
      Hello and sorry for the delay in response to your question. Your question about exercise and trigger fingers is an interesting one. I suspect that asking this question of a hand therapist may get you a different response, but in my experience I haven’t seen much success with exercise and a cure for trigger finger. Like any hand surgeon, I see trigger fingers in people frequently and many people do try to do exercises to encourage the tendons to glide and to keep the fingers from getting stiff. I think that the exercises to avoid stiffness are a good idea, but I haven’t seen a specific set of exercises reliably cure a trigger finger. Trigger fingers do sometimes spontaneously resolve. If you are interested in exercise to help your trigger finger, please feel free to try as long as your finger maintains good range of motion. The good news is that your hand surgeon has ways to treat a trigger finger.

  • Sara
    December 22, 2016 at 6:55 PM

    Do you mind if I ask a question as well? I have been saving up to get the injections after the steroid pills didn’t work. I have trigger finger in every finger except 1 thumb and 1 pinky. Lately I have noticed waking up with swollen veins in my wrist that hurts alot when I bend it. Today I have a swollen vein in the palm of my hand that has a stabbing pain. Is this related to my trigger finger problems or is this something totally different? And I was wondering how long can I go putting off injections or surgery? Does trigger finger get any worse than it already is? Thanks sooo much! You have no idea how much this helps me!

    • January 25, 2017 at 8:44 PM

      Hello Sara,
      It looks like it has been a few weeks since your question was posted so things may have already changed for you. From what you describe, it’s hard to say if this is related to your trigger finger or not. Your hand surgeon should be able to clarify things for you about the swollen area in your palm. It does sound like a good idea to see your hand surgeon again to discuss this in more detail.

      In general, trigger fingers can continue to cause long term problems and can sometimes cause permanent stiffness in the fingers. You should try to avoid permanent finger stiffness. Every person is different in how they experience a trigger finger and in how long it takes for the problem to develop and worsen. Most hand surgeons would tell you to treat your trigger fingers as soon as you can to avoid the stiffness that can sometimes occur. I hope that my response encourages you to go get your fingers working again!

  • Maria Garcellano
    July 22, 2016 at 2:02 PM

    Can I ask a question rather than a comment.? I have my first steroids injections last April and now it’s hurting but not as severe. Should I have the next injections now or wait until it gets worst or more painful coz I read,there is a limit for the injections and I don’t want to maximize it until I can bear the pain Thank you kindly and hoping for your response.

    • July 27, 2016 at 8:04 AM

      Hi Maria –
      Sorry for the delay in the response. I think you’ll hear differing opinions on this, but my usual practice is to go ahead and try the second injection if you’d like to once it’s clear the first isn’t working. Oftentimes, the problem is the cycle of inflammation that occurs. The tendon gets swollen, and gets stuck under a pulley in the sheath of the finger. Because it gets stuck, it gets more swollen, which causes it to get more stuck… and so on and so forth. One idea behind the injection is to get the swelling down, and help the tendon glide freely, and in doing so to hopefully break this cycle.
      When thought of in this way, I think a second injection can be helpful before the symptoms return too severely. However if your symptoms aren’t too severe and you’d prefer to hold out as long as you can, that’s not an unreasonable approach either.
      I hope that helps,
      Sameer Puri

    • Thelma
      March 28, 2019 at 1:13 PM

      Did the injection hurt. Plead be honest

      • Karen
        April 23, 2019 at 8:59 PM

        I had the injection two weeks ago . It hurt like hell it was in the palm of my hand under the finger that is triggering it was sore there in the first place but they spray a numbing spray which for me did not work because I felt everything the needle going in the pressure of the needle I will never get another cortisone shot .

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