Trigger finger, (stenosing tenosynovitis), is a painful condition in which one of the fingers is caught or locked in a bent position. The finger may straighten with a snap or pop like a gun trigger being pulled and released.

Trigger finger occurs when, due to inflammation, the space within the sheath that surrounds the tendon in the affected finger narrows. In severe cases the finger may become locked in a bent position.

People whose work or hobbies require repetitive gripping actions are at higher risk of developing trigger finger. The condition is also more common in women and in anyone with diabetes. Treatment of trigger finger varies depending on the severity.


One of the first symptoms of trigger finger is soreness at the base of the finger or thumb. The most common symptom is a painful clicking or snapping when bending or straightening the finger. Also, in some cases, the finger or thumb locks in a bent or straight position as the condition gets worse and must be gently straightened with the other hand. Symptoms include:

  • Finger stiffness, particularly in the morning
  • A popping or clicking sensation as you move the finger
  • Tenderness or a bump (nodule) in the palm at the base of the affected finger
  • Finger catching or locking in a bent position, which suddenly pops straight
  • Finger locked in a bent position, which you are unable to straighten


Tendons,  fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone, glide easily through the tissue that covers them because of a lubricating membrane surrounding the joint. Sometimes a tendon may become irritated, inflamed and swollen. When this happens, bending the finger or thumb can pull the inflamed tendon through a narrowed tendon sheath, making it snap or pop.

Prolonged irritation of the tendon sheath can produce scarring, thickening and the formation of bumps (nodules) that impede the tendon's motion even more.

Risk Factors

Factors that put you at risk of developing trigger finger include:

  • Repeated gripping. Occupations and hobbies that involve repetitive hand use and prolonged gripping may increase the risk of trigger finger.
  • Certain health problems. People who have diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis are at higher risk of developing trigger finger.
  • The sex. Trigger finger is more common in women.


Trigger finger release surgery is a safe procedure. However, as with any type of surgery, there are some risks. Complications after surgery are rare, but could include:

  • infection
  • stiffness or pain in the finger
  • a tender scar
  • nerve damage (if a nerve is damaged during surgery, you may never recover the full sensation in the affected area)
  • tendon bowstringing, where the tendon is in the wrong position
  • complex regional pain syndrome, which causes pain and swelling in the hand after surgery. This usually resolves itself after a few months, but there can be permanent problems


Avoiding overuse is key to preventing trigger finger. When a patient begins to experience stiffness and swelling in the fingers, he/she has to give them a good rest. Alternating activities can help keep the fingers from becoming inflamed. Inflammation can be reduced by using ibuprofen before it grows worse.