What is a Trigger Finger?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 January 2020
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Often referred to as trigger thumb, trigger finger involves an irritation of the sheath that covers the flexor tendons within the finger. Often this causes the tendon sheath to swell, which in turn places pressure on the tendon. The pressure around the tendon interferes with the ability of the tendon to effect movement, and may even pinch the tendon so that the finger is drawn in toward the palm. It is because of the drawn nature of the finger that the condition is named trigger finger, since the pinched tendon usually pulls the finger into a position that is very similar to the way a finger is curled when operating the trigger on a firearm.

Trigger fingers should be treated as soon as the condition becomes apparent. Swelling will be the first sign of the condition, followed by an inability to straighten out the finger without experiencing pain. Dealing with the swelling is the first line of defense when it comes to the tendon irritation. A physician may choose to administer a corticosteroid shot at the base of the finger, although there are critics who believe that the corticosteroid only provides temporary relief.


Generally, the next step is to arrange for physical therapy. The main objective is to ease the swelling as soon as possible, while also ensuring that there is no residual damage to the tendon as a result of the swelling. In some instances, a splint may be employed, as well as the application of anti-inflammatory creams to help with the swelling. In very rare instances, outpatient surgery may be used to cut into the sheath around the tendon and relieve the pressure.

One of the reasons that therapy is so essential to the treatment of trigger thumbs is that the therapy can help to identify any conditions that may lead to a recurrence of the trigger finger. As the swelling eases, it is often easier to determine the origins for the situation, and effectively treat the reasons behind the first outbreak. By isolating the origin of the problem, it is possible to prevent the establishment of an ongoing cycle where the individual experiences another round of trigger finger every few months.

Trigger finger is not a condition that is limited to one sector of the population. Both men and women may experience trigger finger, with instances occurring in young people as well as persons past retirement age. Seeking treatment immediately will help to bring the condition under control in a short time, and possibly prevent any permanent damage to the tendons of the finger.


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