Trigger Finger Treatment

Trigger finger is an orthopedic condition of the hand that affects the movement of the fingers and thumb, causing pain, stiffness and the characteristic locking of fingers in a bent position — similar to the way a finger is bent when pulling a trigger.

Trigger finger treatment requires the expertise of hand specialists for proper treatment and recovery. Our orthopedic team in New Jersey offers personalized care and provides expert diagnosis and treatment options to optimize trigger finger recovery.

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What Is Trigger Finger?

trigger finger Tendons, which are strong bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones, work together with muscles in the hands to bend and straighten the fingers and thumb. When these tendons become sore and swollen, they don't slide smoothly. Trigger finger happens when the tendon in your hand that bends your fingers gets swollen or inflamed, making it tough to straighten your finger or thumb, and causing them to stick in a bent position.

Trigger Finger Causes

Trigger finger often happens to people in their 50s and 60s. It is more common in women than men. It usually affects the ring finger and thumb more than other fingers. About 2 to 3 percent of people will experience it in their lifetime. You are more likely to get it if you do a lot of repetitive or heavy finger work, like:

  • Farming or gardening
  • Driving that involves prolonged gripping of a steering wheel (truck driving, for example)
  • Industrial tasks or using tools
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Engaging in racket sports like tennis, racquetball, or pickleball

Some health conditions also make you more likely to get trigger finger, including:

Trigger Finger Symptoms

The symptoms of trigger finger can vary, often feeling worse when you first wake up and then getting better as you move your hands more during the day. You might notice:

  • Snapping or popping feeling in the affected fingers or thumb
  • Pain and stiffness, especially when bending the fingers or thumb towards your palm
  • Soreness at the base of the fingers or thumb within the palm, which feels worse when you grab something
  • A noticeable bump or sore spot at the base of the affected finger in your palm
  • Your fingers might get stuck in a bent position and then suddenly straighten

Trigger Finger Diagnosis

To diagnose trigger finger, the orthopedic doctor will examine your hand and perform tests to:

  • Check for tenderness over the affected tendon in the palm of your hand
  • Ask you to flex and extend your fingers to evaluate the smoothness of movement and look for catching or locking
  • Observe for any swelling or lumps in your palm or fingers
  • Conduct a physical manipulation test to identify the clicking sound that confirms trigger finger
  • Assess your grip strength and pain response during movement

When checking your hand, your health care provider will assess your hand's functionality, look for pain points, how well it moves, and any sign of the fingers locking or getting stuck.

While imaging tests like X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound are not standard, they can sometimes help clarify the diagnosis.

Trigger Finger Treatment

​​Treatments for trigger finger depend on which finger is affected and how bad the symptoms are, ranging from rest and splinting to physical therapy and medication. If these treatments don't work, procedures like steroid injections or surgery may be necessary.

Treatments can include:

  • Rest. Stop activities that make the condition worse to let your tendons heal.
  • Splinting. A splint may be used to keep the affected finger(s) still and ease the return to the normal range of motion.
  • Stretching exercises. At-home exercises or working with a physical rehabilitation therapist can help your tendons move more smoothly.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can help relieve pain and swelling. In some cases, corticosteroids, including cortisone injections, are advised for their potent anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Steroid injections. These may be used to reduce swelling and pain, with some benefiting from multiple treatments.
  • Needle procedure. Under local anesthesia, a needle is used to break up the constricted tissue around the tendon, sometimes with ultrasound guidance to enhance the outcome.
  • Hand surgery. A trigger finger release procedure is performed under local anesthesia for persistent or severe cases. An incision is made in the tendon sheath to allow for tendon movement. This minor surgery is an outpatient procedure, allowing patients to return home on the same day.

Trigger Finger Recovery

Choosing an experienced hand specialist is crucial for a successful recovery.

We're here to help you get better from start to finish, from your first assessment to complete rehabilitation. Our state-of-the-art facilities, experienced hand specialists and rehabilitation and sports medicine teams ensure a comprehensive approach to your trigger finger.

The time it takes to get better can be different for everyone. Trigger finger with mild symptoms might get better quickly, but after surgery you might need a few months to recover fully. Following the recovery plan and talking to your health care provider are both important for getting back to a normal range of movement.

Expert Care for Trigger Finger Pain in New Jersey

As the state's largest and most comprehensive academic health care system, RWJBarnabas Health has award-winning medical services and highly skilled, board-certified hand specialists. Our facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment essential for accurately diagnosing and effectively treating trigger finger.

Don't ignore trigger finger pain. Contact us today.

Request an Appointment

Patient Stories

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