Trigger Finger: Cause, Diagnosis and Treatment

Trigger finger can be

  1. congenital (since birth)
  2. acquired

Before reading further it would be good to first see Finger Anatomy (skip if you have already done so).

First we shall see the acquired type which is commonly seen in adults around the age of 45 years. It can result from overuse of the hand or no obvious cause may be present.

Other causes of acquired type include

  • collagen diseases such as scleroderma and Sjogren's syndrome
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • osteoarthritis


Symptoms include

  • following flexion the finger extends with a jerk
  • a nodule can be palpated near the distal palmer crease
  • the nodule moves with finger movement
  • pain is present over the nodule

Snapping of the finger occurs when the covering of the tendon becomes constricted. Following this constriction a nodule develops in the tendon. The sliding in and out of this nodule through the constriction causes the snapping.


Diagnosis is by clinical examination. Investigations are hardly required. Ultrasound examination of the finger may br done.


Treatment of the acquired type includes

  • injection of steroid into the involved tendon sheath (I have had good results with this technique)
  • surgically cutting the constricted sheath to allow free movement of the tendon

Surgery is only done when there is no improvement after steroid injection or the triggering recurs after a single injection of steroid.

Below you can see a video of trigger thumb.

Congenital Trigger Finger or Thumb

This condition is more common in the thumb and involves both sides in 1/4 patients. It has been found to be associated with trisomy 13 (triplication of chromosome 13)

Only abnormality evident is persistent flexion posture of the involved digit. No snapping is present.

In about 25% patients it is detected at birth in the rest it is diagnosed within 2 years of age.

In 30% patients spontaneous resolution occurs. Rest require surgery.

Surgery should be done within three years of age as beyond this age chances of permanent deformity increase.

Trigger Finger FAQ

Is there any medicine that can be effective in trigger finger?

Anti-inflammatory medicine can be given. I have found that it reduces pain and tenderness but has no effect on snapping.

Can it recur after surgery?

Yes it can. Adequate release of the tendon sheath can prevent it.

How long will I have to stay in the hospital after surgery?

You can be discharged on the same day.

When will I be able to use my hand after surgery?

As soon as the pain permits. Your doctor will encourage active use of the hand.

I hope the information provided was helpful. If you have any query you can ask me at the contact me page.

This page was last updated on 13th October 2015.

Other causes of finger joint pain...

Finger Fracture

Finger Amputation

Glomus Tumor


Mallet Finger

Swan Neck Deformity

Boutonniere Deformity

Kirner Deformity


Bowlers Thumb

Thumb Dislocation

Go back from Trigger Finger to Finger Joint Pain


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