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Trigger Finger

A trigger finger is a finger stuck in a bent position. It happens when the tendon that bends and straightens the thumb or finger can't slide smoothly under the ligaments that hold the tendon against the bones. In most cases, it's caused by a bump (nodule) that forms on the tendon. The bent finger usually straightens out on its own.

A trigger finger can be painful. But it normally isn't a serious problem. Trigger fingers seem to occur more in some groups of people.

These groups include:

  • People who have diabetes or arthritis
  • People who have injured their hands in the past
  • Musicians
  • People who grip tools often

Rest and exercises may help your finger relax so that it can bend.

You may get a corticosteroid shot. This can reduce swelling and pain. Your doctor may put a splint on your finger. It will give your finger some rest. You may need surgery if the finger keeps locking in a bent position.

  • When to call

    Trigger finger: When to call

    Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

    • Your finger locks in a bent position and will not straighten.

    Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

    • You do not get better as expected.
  • Treatment

    Trigger finger release: Overview

    Trigger finger release is surgery to make it easier to bend and straighten your finger. Your doctor will make a cut in the tissue over the tendon that helps bend your finger. This cut is called an incision. It will allow the tendon to move freely without pain.

    This surgery will probably be done while you are awake. The doctor will give you a shot (injection) to numb your hand and prevent pain. You also may get medicine to help you relax.

    The doctor will make an incision in the skin of your finger or palm. He or she will make a cut to open the tissue over the swollen part of the tendon. The doctor will close the skin incision with stitches. After surgery, you will have a small scar on your finger or palm. This will fade with time.

    It will probably take about 6 weeks for your hand to heal. After it heals, your finger may move easily without pain.

    You will go home the same day as the surgery. How soon you can return to work depends on your job. If you can do your job without using your hand, you may be able to go back in 1 or 2 days. But if your job requires you to do repeated finger or hand movements, put pressure on your hand, or lift things, you may need to take more time off work.

  • Care

    How can you care for trigger finger?

    • If your doctor put a splint on your finger, wear it as directed. Don't take it off until your doctor says you can.
    • You may need to change your activities to avoid movements that irritate the finger.
    • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
    • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If your doctor recommends exercises, do them as directed.

    Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.