May 2, 2017

Hand Pain 101 – Trigger Finger Symptoms and Treatment

By Sonya Clark, DO

It could be argued that the hands are, perhaps, the extremity we take for granted the most. We use our hands in almost every physical activity, from driving to writing to eating. That’s why it’s important to understand some of the most common hand ailments and how they can be treated.

This is Part 3 of a three-part series focusing on the symptoms and treatment for three common hand ailments. In this entry, we’ll turn our attention to trigger finger. Click here to read Part 1 on arthritis. Click here to read Part 2 on carpal tunnel syndrome.

First and foremost, for many upper extremity ailments, recognizing the symptoms and asking the right questions can help you on your path to recovery.

  • Where is your pain? Is it in the fingers, your wrist?
  • Did you have an injury?
  • Do you have a mass?
  • Do your fingers go numb or tingle?
  • Do your fingers lock-up or catch and trigger?

Trigger fingers are very common. The most common reason is idiopathic, but trigger fingers are more commonly seen in people with diabetes. A trigger finger occurs because of a combination of thickening of the pulleys in your fingers and of the tendon itself. The pulley gets thickened and too tight, and this prevents the tendon from gliding under the pulley, which prevents the finger from bending and straightening normally. In a trigger finger, when you try to straighten your finger, it will lock or catch, often there is an audible painful pop before the finger will straighten.

Signs and Symptoms of Trigger Finger

Can be seen following periods of heavy hand use, symptoms of trigger finger may include:

  • Tender lump – In the palm of the hand
  • Swelling – In the finger
  • Catching or popping – Commonly noticed in the finger and thumb
  • Pain – From bending or straightening your finger

Treating Trigger Finger

Typically, trigger fingers get better with an injection, but sometimes require surgery. Nonsurgical treatment options range from:

  • Rest – For mild symptoms.
  • Medications – Anti-inflammatories, both oral and topical.
  • Steroid Injections – A more powerful anti-inflammatory corticosteroid injection can provide relief.

As for surgical options, an outpatient procedure permanently corrects the problem by cutting the A1 pulley. After surgery, the triggering is instantly gone and patients can begin using their hands immediately.


Sonya Clark, DO, is a board certified orthopedic surgeon, specializing in treating disorders of the entire upper extremity through both surgical and nonsurgical options.

To schedule an appointment directly with Dr. Clark, call (828) 782-9330. No referral is necessary. To learn more, visit mission-health.org/boneandjoint.