Could Trigger Finger
be causing your finger joint pain?

Does your finger click and catch? Does it feel like your finger gets stuck? If so, a trigger finger may be the cause of your finger joint pain. What is this condition and what can be done to help relieve your finger pain?

What is Trigger Finger?

The condition of trigger finger is caused by inflammation of the flexor tendons of the hand. Muscles in the forearm travel into the hand and become thin tendons that attach to each bone of the finger. Each of these tendons is surrounded by a protective but inflexible sheath.

When inflammation and swelling of this finger flexor tendon occurs it impacts the ability of the tendon to easily slide and glide through the sheath, resulting in catching and snapping. In more significant cases a flexor tendon nodule can develop causing significant pain as this elevated tendon region gets stuck within the tendon sheath.

trigger finger

Typical Causes

So, if flexor tendon inflammation causes this condition, what causes the inflammation? Generally activities that involve excessive and forceful gripping can cause flexor tendon inflammation. Examples of professions with a higher incidence include musicians, farmers, and those that use power tools.

Typically women are more likely than men to have this condition with the condition occurring most often between the ages of 40 and 60. Other conditions such as gout , diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis are commonly associated with an increased incidence of trigger finger.

Treatment Options

Because inflammation of the tendon is the underlying cause of this condition, reducing inflammation is the first step in effective treatment. The use of ice therapy is an easy means of helping to reduce local inflammation. Because the area is small, the use of ice massage is an effective means of icing. To use ice massage, fill a Styrofoam cup up with water and freeze it. Then peel off the top of the cup to expose the ice and massage it over the swollen region of the finger for 5 minutes.

ice massage

Another means of reducing inflammation is anti-inflammatory medication and creams. When this form of medication is not successful, cortisone injections may be utilized.

Physical therapy can also be a helpful treatment option. Modalities including ultrasound, fluido therapy, and iontophoresis can all be used to help reduce tendon inflammation.

Ultrasound works by helping to increase tissue temperature and promote healing. Another type of ultrasound called phonophoresis can also be used. This type of ultrasound utilizes a gel that has an anti-inflammatory medication mixed in it to help in reducing inflammation.

Iontophoresis is another modality that utilizes anti-inflammatory medication but utilizes electrodes to help administer the medication.

Manual soft tissue friction massage can help to reduce flexor tendon and thickness. Exercises can also assist in helping to restore normal flexibility, strength, and hand dexterity.


In cases in which conservative treatment has failed and severe symptoms continue, surgery is a reasonable option. Surgery is an outpatient procedure and involves cutting the aspect of the sheath that is keeping the tendon from gliding.

Success for this procedure is relatively high with recovery taking a few weeks. Physical therapy following surgery can help to return to you to function more quickly.

Trigger finger can be a painful and limiting condition. Seek advice from a qualified hand specialist. The sooner you seek treatment, the faster you will get out of pain and back to being able to use your hand normally.

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