Orthopedic Surgery

What is Trigger Finger? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Trigger FingerTrigger finger is a condition in which the flexor tendon tissue inside the finger, which is used to flex the finger, becomes inflamed. It is called ‘trigger finger’ because when you extend your finger, you feel a resistance as if you are pulling a trigger.

Causes of Trigger Finger

The exact cause of trigger finger is not known. It cannot be said that trigger finger is caused by genetic factors, but it can occur due to family history, chromosomal abnormalities, etc. Trigger finger occurs frequently in people who work with their fingers bent under tension for long periods of time, that is, people whose occupations require them to hold tools with handles or steering wheels for long periods of time, or whose occupations involve repeatedly touching machines that vibrate, such as drills.

Repeated use of instruments that require strong grip, such as a drill, can cause inflammation in the tendon or the aponeurosis surrounding the tendon. This causes arthritis in the finger joints in the palm of the hand.

It hurts when you squeeze your fingers, and it becomes difficult to move them. As symptoms continue to worsen, the middle part of the tendon thickens and becomes trapped in the passageway through which the tendon passes. This causes the symptoms to appear as if a trigger is being pulled and then suddenly release.


When trigger finger occurs, symptoms such as difficulty in straightening the finger and difficulty in bending the finger when forced to straighten it occur. Pain may occur in the joint area where the palm and fingers connect, and the area may become swollen. If the tendon becomes inflamed, it may feel like it’s sticking when you try to straighten or bend your finger. Then, the fingers snap out, as if pulling the trigger of a pistol.

Trigger finger occurs most often in adults over the age of 40. The main sites of trigger finger are the 3rd and 4th fingers and thumb. As symptoms become more severe, the fingers become locked in a bent position. Symptoms usually appear in the morning and get better after some time.

Trigger Finger Diagnosis

If symptoms of trigger finger are evident, diagnosis can be made through palpation alone. This is because there is pain at the base of the finger, and there is a feeling of a slight pinching of the tendon when the finger is clenched and opened. If necessary, an ultrasound examination is performed to check if the tendon is swollen or inflamed around it.

Trigger Finger Treatment

Treatments for trigger finger are divided into non-surgical treatment and surgical treatment depending on the severity of symptoms.

Non-Surgical Treatment

1. If the symptoms are not severe, it is recommended to rest without moving your fingers. Wear braces to prevent locking and bending of the fingers at night.

2. If symptoms worsen despite drug treatment and physical therapy, steroid injections are administered to the inflamed area to reduce inflammation. Steroid injections may cause skin atrophy, skin discoloration, tendon degeneration and rupture, and needle prick pain.

3. If there is no improvement despite receiving non-surgical treatment such as steroid injection, repeated injection treatment increases the risk of side effects and complications. In this case, surgical treatment is required.

Surgical Treatment

  1. This is a simple surgery in which a 1cm incision is made in the palm and the passage through which the tendon passes is opened. Surgery eliminates friction in the passageway as the tendon passes, eliminating inflammation.
  2. If you incorrectly straighten the middle joint of your finger for a long time, it can put a strain on the joint and cause pain to continue for a long time even after surgery.
Dr Jihoon Ryu Orthopedic Surgeon Korehab

Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon

2023 Hip Bioskill Course, Zimmer Biomet Institute, Bangkok, Thailand
2021 NAVIO Robotic UKA/TKA Cadaver Workshop, Seoul, Korea
2019 Z*BIKE Shoulder and elbow Update certificate
2018~2023 Consulting professor, Dept. of Orthopedic surgery Ajou University Medical Center in Suwon, Korea.
2017 Poster presentation. International Pediatric Orthopedic Symposium, Orlando, FL, USA
2017 Clinical Fellowship: Dept. of Orthopedic surgery (pediatric orthopedic) Ajou University Medical Center in Suwon, Korea..
2015 Orthopedic surgeon, UN Peacekeeping Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL)
2013 AO trauma course certification