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Trigger finger release

Trigger finger causes a finger to catch or lock in position when it is moved. It can be a nuisance, hindering everyday activities, and it can be painful. In the thumb the condition is known as trigger thumb.

I have a question about trigger finger treatment

What is trigger finger?

Trigger finger occurs when tendons - the bands of tissue that connect to the fingers and thumbs, helping to bend and straighten them - become inflamed. This stops you from moving them freely and causes your finger to catch or lock in position when it’s moved. In the thumb the condition is known as trigger thumb.

Also, ongoing irritation of a tendon sheath can scar and thicken the sheath, hindering the smooth movement of the tendon. With this condition, when you bend your finger it pulls the inflamed tendon through the narrowed tendon sheath, making it click or pop.

What causes trigger finger?

The reasons for lack of movement of the tendon are often unknown. However, trigger finger may be caused by a forceful or repeated movement of the fingers or thumbs, or prolonged gripping of vibrating machinery (such as a power tool). For this reason, individuals working in the construction and building trades can be more at risk of developing the condition.

Sometimes other medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes can be contributing factors.

What are the symptoms of trigger finger?

Trigger finger symptoms can include:

  • Stiffness or clicking of the affected finger, particularly first thing in the morning
  • Soreness at the base of the finger or thumb
  • The finger becoming locked in either a bent or straight position. As the condition worsens, the finger may need to be straightened using the other hand

How is trigger finger diagnosed?

Your GP will usually be able to diagnose trigger finger with a simple physical examination of your hand and fingers.

They’ll ask you to open and close your hand while checking for areas of pain, looking at how well your hand is moving and monitoring movement for any evidence of locking.

Depending on the severity of the condition, they may refer you to our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons for further assessment and treatment – including surgery.

What is the treatment for trigger finger?

Non-surgical treatments include rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and splinting.  A steroid injection may be recommended which can help reduce swelling.

Our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons can perform open trigger finger release surgery. This is usually very effective as a permanent treatment for the condition, and it’s rare that the problem returns to the treated finger or thumb.

Surgery involves making a small cut in your palm to get to the tendon and release it. There are two common types of surgery for the release of trigger finger:

  • Open trigger finger release surgery
  • Percutaneous trigger finger release surgery

However, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, a tenosynovectomy may be suggested instead; this involves removing some of the tendon sheath to allow the tendon to move again.

The procedure takes around 20 minutes and is usually carried out as day surgery so you’ll be able to go home on the same day, but you may not be able to drive yourself. You’ll be given a local anaesthetic, so you'll be awake, but you won’t be able to feel any pain in your hand.

Percutaneous (or ‘through the skin’) trigger finger release surgery involves inserting a needle into the base of the affected finger and using it to slice through the ligament to get to the tendon. As this surgery doesn't involve an incision, there is no wound or scar. However, percutaneous surgery may be less effective at resolving trigger finger. Also, because there are important nerves and arteries close to the tendon sheath which could easily be damaged, open surgery is usually the preferred method for treating trigger finger.

What should I expect after a release of trigger finger?

You may have some pain or discomfort after the operation which we’ll help you manage with painkillers. You may need to take some time off work.

We’ll tell you how to care for your wound and, if you’ve had non-dissolvable stitches, we’ll make an appointment for you to have them removed. You may be recommended some hand therapy to help you recover full movement in your finger. This may involve physiotherapy or occupational therapy.

What will happen if a trigger finger is not treated?

A lot of the time trigger finger isn’t a painful condition; however, it can be very uncomfortable. Your finger or thumb might be stuck in an awkward or bent position, making it harder to use. To avoid loss of dexterity and everyday tasks becoming difficult it’s recommended you get treatment for trigger finger.

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Our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons

Mr Oliver

Matthew Oliver

Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon

Mr Oliver's specialties include patient specific knee replacement, enhanced recovery protocols and Dupuytrens disease.

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Kumar Reddy

Associate Specialist Surgeon

Mr Reddy specialises in total hip and knee replacements, revision joint replacements, ACL reconstruction, and more.

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Hemant Thakral

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Mr Thakral's specialties include shoulder arthroscopic surgery, complex joint replacements for arthritis and trauma.

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Raman Thakur

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Mr Thakur's specialties include hip and knee replacement, ACL reconstruction and general orthopaedics.

Mr Neen

Daniel Neen

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Mr Neen's specialities include clavicle surgery, shoulder surgery, elbow surgery and wrist and hand surgery.

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