What is trigger finger?

If it’s hard to bend or straighten a finger, we can help. 

March 24, 2020


Trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis) is a condition in which one of the fingers gets stuck in a bent position. 


Trigger finger is most commonly linked to certain medications or certain medical conditions. These include diabetes, kidney disease and thyroid disease. 

Doing activities that require a tight grip, like holding small tools, can also lead to trigger finger. Some people are born predisposed to trigger finger.


Early signs of trigger finger are discomfort in the finger, swelling, stiffness and pain. There may or may not be tenderness in the palm of the hand. 

As the swelling increases, you may also notice a painful catching or clicking sensation. This happens because the finger’s tendon is becoming too swollen to allow the hand to work properly. 

It’s similar to a piece of thread being pulled through the eye of a needle. If the thread is bigger than the eye, it will bunch up. In the most severe cases, the finger may become locked into a bent or straight position. 

Diagnosis and treatment

Your doctor can usually diagnose trigger finger based on your medical history and a physical exam. Treatment options vary based on the severity of the symptoms and may include:

  • Rest or modifying activities that are causing the problem
  • Medications like Advil or Aleve
  • A splint
  • Steroid shots
  • Surgery

Can trigger finger be cured?

In short, yes. Mild to moderate trigger finger can be cured without surgery. More severe cases may respond to an injection, which has a success rate of 40 to 70%. 

Surgery is reserved for cases that are unusually severe or if nonsurgical options haven’t helped. The goal of surgery is to help the finger’s tendon move more easily. This surgery has a very high success rate, but all surgeries carry some risk.

When should I talk to my doctor?

If you have finger or hand pain that’s keeping you from doing what you want to do, it’s time to talk to your doctor.


By Christopher Hein, MD

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The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.