Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, refers to a condition wherein one or more of your fingers get stuck in a bent position, as if squeezing a “trigger.” It can also occur in the thumb and may start for no apparent reason.

Tendons are bands of tissue that attach muscles to bones. In the hand, they work together with muscles to bend and straighten your fingers and thumb. They usually slide easily through a tunnel of tissue called a sheath which keeps them in place next to the bones.

When the tendons become irritated or inflamed and are unable to glide easily through the sheath, the tendon causes the finger or thumb to curl inward toward the palm of the hand. It may also click as it moves. This condition is called trigger finger.

Trigger finger is more commonly seen in individuals between the ages of 40 and 60 who have jobs or hobbies that involve repetitive motions of the fingers and/or thumb. Many are farmers, factory workers, musicians, golfers, and tennis players, but the condition has become more common in young people who play computer games and text frequently. It also affects people who have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout or diabetes.

People with trigger finger or trigger thumb experience these symptoms:

  • Pain and stiffness when bending the finger(s) or thumb (worse in the morning)
  • Popping or snapping sensation when moving the finger or thumb
  • Swelling or tenderness in the palm
  • Inability to straighten the finger or thumb without using the other hand
  • Inability to fully flex the finger

If you have a mild case of trigger finger, a hand subspecialists at Lancaster Orthopedic Group may recommend treating the condition with rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication and a finger splint to keep the joint from moving. If conservative treatments are unsuccessful, surgery may be recommended to release the tendon and allow it to move more freely.