Stenosing tenosynovitis (trigger finger)

Disease database

Stenosing tenosynovitis, commonly known as trigger finger, is a condition that affects the tendons in the fingers, causing pain, stiffness, and limited movement. It is characterized by a popping or clicking sensation when bending or straightening the affected finger. The finger may also become swollen and tender at the base. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for trigger finger.

Causes of Trigger Finger

Trigger finger occurs when the tendons in the finger become inflamed or irritated. The exact cause of this inflammation is often unknown, but certain factors can increase the risk of developing the condition:

  • Repetitive hand and finger movements, such as gripping or grasping
  • Medical conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout
  • Injury to the finger or hand
  • Age, as trigger finger is more common in individuals over 40

Symptoms of Trigger Finger

The most common symptom of trigger finger is a painful clicking or popping sensation when moving the affected finger. Other symptoms may include:

  • Stiffness in the finger, especially in the morning
  • Difficulty straightening or bending the finger
  • A swollen or tender area at the base of the finger

Treatment Options

1. Rest and Immobilization

One of the first steps in treating trigger finger is to rest the affected finger and avoid activities that may aggravate the condition. Immobilizing the finger with a splint or brace can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.

2. Medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with trigger finger. Your doctor may also recommend corticosteroid injections to alleviate symptoms.

3. Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can guide you through exercises and stretches to improve finger mobility and reduce stiffness. They may also use techniques such as ultrasound or heat therapy to promote healing.

4. Finger Exercises

Performing regular finger exercises can help improve flexibility and reduce the risk of recurrence. Simple exercises like finger bends, finger spreads, and finger taps can be beneficial.

5. Surgical Intervention

If conservative treatments fail to provide relief, your doctor may recommend surgery to release the affected tendon. This procedure, known as trigger finger release, involves making a small incision in the palm or finger to widen the tendon sheath and allow the tendon to move freely.

Prevention Tips

While trigger finger may not always be preventable, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Avoid repetitive hand and finger movements whenever possible
  • Take regular breaks during activities that involve gripping or grasping
  • Practice proper hand and finger ergonomics
  • Stay active and maintain a healthy weight

By following these prevention tips, you can minimize the chances of developing trigger finger.


Stenosing tenosynovitis, or trigger finger, can cause pain, stiffness, and limited finger movement. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience these symptoms to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. While trigger finger can be bothersome, it is often manageable with conservative treatments such as rest, medication, and physical therapy. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to alleviate symptoms. By taking preventive measures and practicing good hand and finger ergonomics, you can reduce the risk of developing trigger finger and maintain optimal hand health.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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