Trigger finger

Trigger finger is a condition that affects one or more of the hand's tendons. This makes it difficult to bend the affected finger or thumb. See your GP if you think you may have trigger finger. They'll examine your hand and advise you about treatments.

About trigger finger

Tendons are tough cords that join bone to muscle. If a tendon in your hand becomes swollen and inflamed it can 'catch' in the tunnel it runs through. This tunnel is called the tendon sheath.

This can make it difficult to move the affected finger or thumb. It can also result in a clicking sensation.

It usually affects the thumb, ring finger or little finger.

One or more fingers can be affected.  The problem may develop in both hands.

It's more common in the right hand. This may be because most people are right-handed.

Symptoms of trigger finger

Symptoms of trigger finger can include:

  • pain at the base of the affected finger or thumb when you move it or press on it
  • stiffness or clicking when you move the affected finger or thumb, particularly first thing in the morning

If the condition gets worse, your finger may get stuck in a bent position and then suddenly pop straight. Eventually, it may not fully bend or straighten.

When to see your GP

You should see your GP if you think you may have trigger finger. They'll examine your hand and advise you about treatments, (see section below on treatments for trigger finger section).

Causes of trigger finger

Trigger finger occurs if there's a problem with the tendon or sheath, such as inflammation and swelling. This makes bending the affected finger or thumb difficult. If the tendon gets caught in the sheath, the finger can click painfully as it's straightened.

The exact reason why these problems occur isn't known. Several factors may increase the likelihood of trigger finger developing.

For example, it's more common in women, people over 40 years of age, and those with certain medical conditions.

Another hand-related condition called Dupuytren’s contracture can also increase your risk of developing trigger finger.

In Dupuytren's contracture, the connective tissue in the palm of the hand thickens, causing one or more fingers to bend into the palm of the hand.

Long-term conditions, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, are also sometimes associated with trigger finger.

Treatments for trigger finger

In some people, trigger finger may get better without treatment.

If it isn't treated, there's a chance the affected finger or thumb could become permanently bent. This would make performing everyday tasks difficult.

If treatment is necessary, several options are available, including:

  • rest and medication – avoiding certain activities and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help relieve pain.
  • splinting, where the affected finger is strapped to a plastic splint to reduce movement.
  • corticosteroid injections (steroids are medicines that can reduce swelling).
  • surgery on the affected sheath – surgery involves releasing the affected sheath to allow the tendon to move freely again. It's usually used when other treatments have failed. It can be up to 100 per cent effective, although you may need to take two to four weeks off work to fully recover

Trigger finger in children

Trigger finger is generally less common in children than in adults. But sometimes young children aged between six months and two years develop it.

It can affect the child's ability to straighten their thumb. But it's rarely painful and usually gets better without treatment.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

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