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Trigger Finger and Thumb


Trigger finger or thumb (also known as stenosing tenosynovitis) is a painful condition often causing catching / locking of the tendon as you move the finger / thumb.

Tendons are responsible for bending of the finger / thumb. They are surrounded by a tunnel called the tendon sheath and held close to bone by pulleys.

Inflammation at the interface between the tendons and pulleys can cause scarring and thickening of pulleys and the tendon itself which can form a nodule. The A1 pulley is most commonly involved. The nodule gets caught in the pulley when the tendon moves hence causing trigger / locking / snapping sensation.

Trigger finger / thumb affects 2-3% of the population. The ring finger is most commonly affected. It commonly affects people in 50-60 years age group. It is more common in women. The incidence is closer to 10% in diabetics.



In MOST cases, the cause of trigger finger / thumb is unknown. There are however certain populations with increased predisposition:

  • Repeated strong gripping – e.g.: occupation related.
  • Diabetes.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Signs and symptoms

Diagnosis is based on patient symptoms and examination findings. Scans are only required when diagnosis is uncertain.


Pain in the palm can occur when you bend or straighten the finger.

Tender Nodule

This is usually located in the palm.


This occurs when you bend the finger and have to forcefully straighten it.

Snapping / Popping / Clicking

This may occur as you move the finger.


Ultrasound / MRI

These can show thickening and inflammation of the tendon as well as nodule which catches on the pulley.

Non-surgical treatment

Night splint

This can be worn to minimize tendon movement and irritation. It is usually a temporary measure in mild early forms.

Activity Modification

Avoiding activities which cause the symptoms. This may involve changing jobs or changing roles at work.

Pain Killers / Anti-inflammatory Medications

These assist with pain only.


Corticosteroid / Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication that may be injected into the tendon sheath. This may resolve symptoms up to one year. Up to two in lifetime may be given per tendon.

Diabetics usually have less successful results with injection.


Trigger Finger and Thumb Release