Trigger Finger

Trigger Finger

What is trigger finger?

Trigger finger is a very common condition seen at Hand Institute of Charleston. It is a painful (or sometimes painless) snapping or locking of the fingers or thumb. This occurs when the sheath around the tendon gets too tight and prevents the tendon from gliding smoothly with use. Picture fishing line getting hung up as it passes through the rings on a fishing rod.


There are many potential causes of trigger finger, but in most cases the direct cause is unknown. Some issues that have been associated with trigger finger include:

  • Overuse, repetitive activities
  • Inflammatory diseases (rheumatoid, gout)
  • Diabetes

Is there a test for trigger finger?

We can usually make the diagnosis of trigger finger simply by discussing your symptoms and medical history, and examining your hand. Rarely are additional studies like an MRI needed.

Signs and symptoms

Trigger finger often starts with a soreness and swelling at the base of the finger in the palm. Over time, this may progress to clicking, or even locking up of the finger after making a fist. Occasionally there is bothersome clicking or locking without ever having pain.


Many cases of trigger finger will resolve with nonoperative treatment. Nonoperative treatment options include:

  • Activity modification recommendations
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Night-time splinting
  • Steroid injection

Operative treatment:
When symptoms are severe or long-standing and have failed nonoperative treatment, a simple surgical procedure can often significantly improve the symptoms of trigger finger. Local numbing with or without sedation is performed and a small incision is made in the palm at the base of the affected finger. The tight sheath around the tendon is loosened so that the tendon no longer catches.


Our Board-Certified Orthopaedic Hand and Wrist Surgeons are here to help! They can often diagnose the problem in one visit, and get you started with a treatment plan. We offer a wide variety of both nonoperative and operative treatment options.

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This content is not a substitute for expert medical advice or diagnosis and is for educational purposes only.