Trigger Finger & Thumb | Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments | MedStar Health

What is trigger finger?

Trigger finger is a condition that affects the flexor tendons in your fingers or thumb and limits finger movement. When you bend or straighten your finger, the flexor tendon slides through a snug tunnel, called the tendon sheath that keeps the tendon in place next to the bones. Trigger finger occurs when the flexor tendon becomes irritated. As it becomes more and more irritated, the tendon may thicken and nodules may form, making its passage through the tunnel more difficult. As a result, the tendon becomes momentarily stuck at the mouth of the tendon sheath tunnel when you try to straighten your finger. You might feel a pop as the tendon slips through the tight area and your finger will suddenly shoot straight out.

Nonsurgical treatment options include rest, over-the-counter pain medications, and steroid injections. If nonsurgical options fail or the finger is stuck in a bent position, surgery may be recommended.

What are the causes?

This condition can develop when the protective covering surrounding the tendon in the finger becomes inflamed. This prevents the tendon from sliding back and forth smoothly when you bend your finger.

The cause of trigger finger is usually unknown. Factors that put people at greater risk for developing it include trauma or activities that strain the hand as well as certain medical problems, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the symptoms?

The following symptoms may warrant a visit to MedStar Health:

  • Stiffness in your finger joints
  • Inability to bend or straighten the finger
  • Feeling like the joints pop or crack
  • A swelling at the bottom of the problem finger

Comprehensive care

Every patient we see benefits from the experienced, individualized care we offer at MedStar Health. Our orthopedic hand surgeons all have fellowship training in hand surgery and specialize only in treating hand and upper extremity conditions.

We offer you a thorough diagnosis and will develop an effective, innovative solution — no matter how complicated your condition. If you need surgery, we offer the most advanced technology and techniques. We also help manage your healing process, which includes balancing your need to move your fingers for basic activities while also keeping them stable so you can recover completely.

How is it diagnosed?

Our initial exam generally includes:

  • Medical history evaluation: This includes asking questions about how your fingers feel, whether you have other medical problems, and if you take any medications.
  • Physical exam: Your orthopedist will examine your hand and fingers carefully, and ask you to bend and straighten your fingers.

What are the best treatments?

Treatment for trigger finger or trigger thumb depends on how severe the problem is and how stiff your fingers are. The orthopedic surgeons at MedStar Health will work together with you to determine what treatment options will be most effective for your condition. For less severe conditions, we will likely recommend any combination of non-surgical options, including:

  • Rest
  • Splint
  • Steroid or anti-inflammatory injections
  • Anti-inflammatory medications

For more severe conditions that do not respond to these treatments, you may need trigger finger release surgery. The expert orthopedic surgeons at MedStar Health will offer you the least invasive, most advanced, and most innovative surgical procedures. Surgery opens up the protective layer around the affected tendon to give the tendon more room to move. This will help it slide your finger back and forth without stiffening.

Trigger Finger Release

Digit release surgery is a minimally invasive procedure during which the opening of the tendon sheath is widened, so the tendon can slide through it more easily. This is usually done on an outpatient basis. Most people are given an…