What Are the Causes of Trigger Finger?

The causes of trigger finger are mostly due to long-term strain on the flexor tendon and excessive flexion and extension of the fingers, resulting in friction and localized inflammation between the tendon and the tendon sheath. Repeated inflammation of this tendon can lead to hyperplasia and hypertrophy in the affected area. In the worst cases, there may even be swelling that results in large nodules. When the patients bend or extend their fingers, the knuckles will get stuck between the tendon and pulley, thus disabling the distal knuckles to completely extend.

What Are the Symptoms of Trigger Finger?

Patients with trigger finger usually suffer from pain and swelling at the knuckles of the fingers near the palm. The initial symptoms mostly occur when the patients wake up or after tiring work. At first, the patients will notice the slow movement of their fingers, soreness in the metacarpophalangeal joints, and obvious tender points when the affected area is touched. The pain worsens in the later stage, and the patients will get stuck or experience resistance that prevents them from straightening the fingers whenever an attempt is made to bend or extend them. Meanwhile, there will be audible clicking sounds as the patients extend their fingers. In some situations, assistance of the other hand is needed in order to extend the fingers

The Four Stages and Diagnosis of Trigger Finger

The development of trigger finger can be divided into four stages:

  • Stage I - the patient feels that the fingers cannot be bent or extended smoothly.
  • Stage II - the fingers are obviously stuck upon bending and extension. The bending and extension can still be achieved with extra effort.
  • Stage III - the patient cannot straighten their fingers on their own and need the help of the other hand in order to extend them.
  • Stage IV - as the fingers cannot be extended at all, the affected finger is permanently in a bent position.

The doctor will make a diagnosis based on the patient's medical history and clinical examination. X-ray examination is generally not required.

What Are the Treatments of Trigger Finger?

Sufficient rest: avoid repetitive or excessive movement of finger tendons, e.g. reduce the use of fingers to grasp things in order not to aggravate the condition.

Medication: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be taken to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Patients with more severe trigger finger may consider receiving local injections of anti-inflammatory steroids, which can help to quickly reduce the inflammation.

Physiotherapy: cold/heat therapy, electrotherapy, ultrasound, acupuncture, shock wave, etc., can be used to treat the affected area to relieve pain, improve circulation, and accelerate tissue recovery. Meanwhile, apply massage and manual therapy to reduce soft tissue adhesion, followed by stretching exercises to increase joint mobility and resistance exercise to strengthen hand muscles. Click here to browse related fitness and pain relief products. 

Wear splint: avoid excessive activity of the affected finger tendons.

Surgical treatment: if the patient's condition fails to improve after non-surgical treatment, he/she needs to consider undergoing a surgery to cut or loosen the affected tendon and tendon sheath. This can help solve the problem in the long run. However, the patient needs to take rest and attend physiotherapy after the operation in order to ensure the normal extension of the affected fingers and reduce the chance for adhesion formation.

How Can We Prevent Trigger Finger?
  • aintain correct work posture and perform more stretching exercises of the palms and fingers
  • Avoid excessive use of the same fingers or thumb in performing tasks.
  • Maintain slow hand movements. Avoid fatigue and frequent bending and extension activities for prolonged periods of time.
  • Take sufficient rest after continuously using the keyboard and repetitively using the fingers for a prolonged period of time.
  • People who need to use keyboards at work may consider switching to keyboards with softer keys in order to reduce the shock force and better protect their fingers while typing.
  • When using high-frequency machines or tools, consider using shock-absorbing gloves to reduce physical strain.
Last Updated: Aug 2020
Please note that all medical health articles featured on our website have been reviewed by Quality Healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for personal consultation with a qualified health professional on the reader’s medical condition.