What Causes Trigger Finger Symptoms and How to Treat Them

Although rare, the lifetime risk of developing trigger finger is 2% to 3%. Many of our patients have asked our EmergeOrtho physicians to explain trigger finger (also known as stenosing tenosynovitis). What are the causes and symptoms? And, how is the condition treated?

At EmergeOrtho, our fellowship-trained orthopedic specialists have specific training in addressing hand, wrist, and fingers conditions. Our skilled, practiced, and knowledgeable doctors are here to help answer the questions relating to trigger finger symptoms and provide guidance on how best to treat the condition.

Trigger Finger Symptoms and Causes Explained

It is helpful to visualize the tendons of the finger and their accompanying pulleys to explain trigger finger. The pulley mechanisms keep the tendons in place near the bones of your fingers and help the joints bend and straighten.

When the “pulleys” surrounding the finger’s tendon thicken, or a thickening in the tendon itself occurs, the finger’s mobility can be restricted. Such thickening causes the finger to lock into a bent position, similar to the posture of a person getting ready to fire a gun.

Some factors that may contribute to developing a trigger finger include:

  • Activities of the Hand/Fingers: Repeated stress of the fingers and thumb, especially in occupations or activities requiring constant gripping and ungripping.
  • Medical Conditions: Underlying medical conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.
  • Age: Evidence suggests that trigger finger is more likely to occur in patients under the age of eight and between the ages of 40 and 50.
  • Sex: The same evidence referenced above demonstrates that women are more likely to be affected by trigger finger, and more so in their dominant hand.

Many times, trigger finger symptoms can occur without any notable reason. Patients with trigger finger may exhibit one or more of the following:

  • The sensation of popping, catching, or locking the finger
  • A lump at the base of the finger that often feels tender (on the palm side of the hand)
  • Pain, especially when the finger is bent or straightened
  • Stiffness and difficulty moving the finger (tends to worsen after periods of rest)

In more severe cases of trigger finger, straightening your finger is impossible and it remains stuck in a bent position.

Trigger Finger Treatment

EmergeOrtho physicians have been treating finger injuries and conditions for decades. Our experience enables us to explore all non-surgical options before considering hand surgery.

For mild cases of trigger finger, our specialists may recommend:

  • Avoiding repetitive gripping for three to four weeks
  • Resting
  • Taking NSAID pain relievers (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naprosyn, and others)
  • Splinting
  • Steroid injections (steroid injections are effective in about 50% of cases.)

Patients who experience more extreme cases of trigger finger may require percutaneous release, a minor procedure that is often performed in the office setting. This procedure uses a needle to release a locked finger and is most effective for the index, middle, and ring fingers.

Surgical treatment may be needed when the “locking” doesn’t respond to more conservative treatments. During a consultation, your physician will review your case and help identify what treatments might work best for your individual needs. If surgery is necessary, your surgeon will discuss the implications and explain what you can expect regarding the procedure and recovery time.

According to Trigger Finger in Adults, published in the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, the “surgical management, involving percutaneous or open release of the A1 pulley, has a success rate of nearly 100%.”

No matter what type of treatment you need for trigger finger, our highly trained orthopedic specialists are known for the sophisticated and innovative care they provide.

If trigger finger symptoms are causing you pain and discomfort, our board-certified and board-eligible EmergeOrtho Hand and Wrist Physicians are ready to help. Request an appointment now.

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