Trigger Finger Treatments

A trigger finger is a common condition that affects the finger joints. People with the condition often wake up with a finger "stuck" in the palm of their hand.

When they try to straighten the finger, it hurts. It can also cause a snapping sensation—that's why the condition is called "trigger finger."

This article will go over the ways that you can treat trigger finger, including simple steps you can take at home and medical treatments.

woman rubbing her fingers
Marcela Barsse / Getty Images

What Is Trigger Finger?

A trigger finger is a condition where a finger or thumb gets stuck in one position. It's also called stenosing tenosynovitis.

A trigger finger happens when there is swelling around the tendons in the finger. The swelling makes it harder for the finger to move.

Any of the fingers and thumbs can become a trigger finger. Sometimes, people have more than one finger or thumb that is affected by the condition.

The condition occurs more often in women than in men. It's also more common in people who have hobbies or jobs where they have to grip objects a lot or have other health conditions affecting their hands, like rheumatoid arthritis.

People with diabetes are also more at risk for getting trigger fingers. It's not clear why, but one reason might be because having high blood sugar is a risk factor for the condition.

Trigger fingers can be painful. Some people get bumps on their fingers that hurt. These are called nodules. Often, the symptoms of the condition are worst first thing in the morning.

While having the condition can get in the way of many activities. it's not life-threatening.

If you have a trigger finger, you don't have to treat it. In some cases, it will get better on its own. If the symptoms are bothering you, there are some things that you can do.

At-Home Treatment

The treatment for the trigger finger depends on how serious it is. Some cases are easier to treat than others. Some people with trigger fingers don't treat the condition at all.

If a trigger finger is only a mild problem, there are some simple treatments you can try at home first. For example:

Does Splinting Help?

In the past, trigger fingers were splinted. However, this is very rarely done now. There has not been enough research to prove that it helps.

In the cases where it has been beneficial, people had to wear the splints for several months.

Medical Treatment

If the things you can do on your own at home aren't enough to help with trigger finger symptoms, you may need medical treatment.

The most common treatment for trigger finger is an injection of a steroid called cortisone. The injection goes into the finger around the tendon sheath, the tissue that wraps the tendon. The medicine works by reducing the swelling in the finger, which can help it move better.

One cortisone injection will resolve the problem—at least temporarily. The chance that a single cortisone shot will be a lasting fix for the trigger finger is about 50%.

Many people with trigger fingers start with one cortisone injection. It might not be a permanent fix, but it can offer some relief.

The side effects of a cortisone injection are usually not serious, but the shot might not be the right choice for everyone.

If your provider feels that cortisone isn't the best treatment for you, they might suggest surgery. There are two procedures that are typically used to treat a trigger finger. One is more involved than the other.

Percutaneous Release

The first procedure that can be used for a trigger finger is called a percutaneous release. It is not a major surgical procedure. Your provider might be able to do it in their office.

Before the procedure, you will have a medication (like lidocaine) put in your finger to numb it.

Next, your provider will put a needle under the skin of your finger. They might use an ultrasound to help them see better and figure out where the needle should go.

During the procedure, the provider will try to move the tendon into a better position or break up any tissue around the tendon that is making it catch.

It doesn't take long to recover after the procedure. No cut is made in your skin—the needle that your provider will use is not much bigger than the one that is used to take blood.

If your provider puts a bandage on the finger, you will probably be able to take it off the next day. You will probably be able to go about your regular activities three to five days after the procedure.

Trigger-Finger Release

Surgery for a trigger finger is called a trigger-finger release. Research has shown that when people have a surgical release early on, they tend to have less stiffness and inflammation in the finger while they're healing.

Surgeons sometimes recommend that people skip straight to surgery for a trigger finger if they think doing so will give them the best chance at a quick recovery.

How It's Done

Trigger finger surgery is a same-day procedure. That means you don't have to be admitted to the hospital.

Instead of having to be put under general anesthesia, you will get a local anesthetic or a regional nerve block to make it so you can't feel pain during the procedure.

During the surgery, a small incision is made in the skin of your finger. The surgeon releases the tight portion of the tendon sheath. This allows the tendon to glide smoothly like it's supposed to instead of catching.

Recovery

You will probably need a few weeks to recover after a trigger finger release. Your finger won't be healed for about six weeks.

However, the swelling and stiffness in your finger may last for several months after you have the procedure.

During this time, you might have some discomfort or have trouble moving the finger. This should get better as you heal.

It can help to use ice and heat treatment to reduce the swelling. Elevating your hand can also help the swelling go down.

You can also ask your provider about taking an OTC pain reliever if you have discomfort.

When you're recovering from the procedure, you will need to be careful about using your finger too much or too soon.

How long you will have to wait to return to your job and hobbies depends on how much you have to move your finger to do them.

Generally, you will probably be told to not use your finger for at least a week or two after the procedure. This will give the cut time to heal.

That said, you don't want to avoid using your finger at all. Gently moving it can help prevent scar tissue from forming.

You will need to avoid putting pressure on the wound while it is healing. You may also need to cover it while you shower or do other activities with water (like washing dishes) to keep it from getting wet.

Right after the procedure, your finger or hand will be covered with a bandage. Your provider will tell you when you can take it off. Usually, it will be a couple of days after the procedure.

You will be told how to keep the wound clean. It's important that you follow these directions to prevent an infection. If you have stitches, your provider will take them out after a week or so.

Complications

Trigger finger surgery is usually very safe. However, as with any surgery, there can be complications.

The most common problem is that the trigger finger can come back. This can happen if the tendon sheath isn't released well enough during the procedure.

More serious complications of trigger finger surgery are rare but can include:

  • Infection
  • Stiffness
  • Damage to the nerves of the finger​
  • Changes to the finger that make it look different or affect your ability to move it normally (e.g. bowstringing)

When to Call Your Provider

If you keep having hand problems after having a trigger finger release procedure, or if you have new problems with your finger, your provider might recommend that you see an occupational or physical therapist.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

There is not as much research on using complementary or alternative treatments for a trigger finger compared to medical treatment and surgery. However, you might choose to explore these options.

Complementary and alternative medicine approaches to other joint conditions of the fingers, like arthritis, might help with symptoms of a trigger finger. For example, you might try:

  • Acupuncture
  • Nutritional supplements (e.g., glucosamine, fish oil)
  • Essential oils

Summary

Trigger finger is a common condition. While it can cause pain, it's not a life-threatening condition that has to be treated.

For some people, the condition isn't bothersome enough for them to look for treatment other than taking an over-the-counter pain reliever. However, other people find that having a trigger finger makes it difficult for them to do their usual activities.

There are medical options for treating a trigger finger, like steroid injections and surgery. While these methods are safe and often provide lasting relief, they do have risks. In some cases, these treatments don't provide a permanent fix.

A Word From Verywell

There is no "best" way to treat a trigger finger. It depends on the person and the seriousness of the condition.

If you have a trigger finger and you want treatment, there is some evidence in favor of having it fixed with surgery sooner rather than later.

That said, some people don't want to, or cannot, have surgery. If your trigger finger symptoms are helped by other options, you may not need to consider having it fixed with surgery.

If you're not sure what to do about a trigger finger, talk to your healthcare provider. They can go over the risks and benefits of each treatment with you and help you choose.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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