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Trigger Finger

If you've been noticing that your finger is feeling stiff, catching, and clicking when moving it, or painful at the base of your finger, you may perhaps be dealing with a condition termed “trigger finger”, or stenosing tenosynovitis.

Trigger finger is when the finger tendon gets inflamed and starts to thicken into a nodule which interferes with the tendon’s gliding movement, thus causing the characteristic clicking or snapping when moving the finger.

What's involved?

At the base of our fingers are bundles of tissue that anchor the flexor tendons to our bones called the A1 pulley. If there is inflammation in the A1 pulley, the flexor tendon may be more constricted, causing inflammation and potentially leading to a nodule in the flexor tendon which has a hard time gliding through the A1 pulley.

How do you treat it non-surgically?

  1. In treating trigger finger, start first by addressing pain! That means identify what causes pain in your finger, and avoid it the best you can. For some, that may mean avoiding over-gripping! Allow your finger to rest, avoid grabbing heavy items, or repetitively performing the aggravating tasks.

  2. Keep your wrist straight (neutral) and your hand relaxed. The finger flexor tendons come from muscles that cross the wrist joint and live in the front forearm. Keeping your wrist straight and your hand relaxed places the least amount of tension in your tendon.

  3. Start hand exercises with your wrist in neutral.

Finger abduction/adduction: Open and close your hand

Finger extensions: Lift one finger off the table at a time.

Tendon gliding: Follow the pattern and move deliberately

Finger rolls: Start with a wider object and progress to narrow objects

Pronation/Supination: Keep your wrist straight (neutral)

Weighted Grip Squeeze

These are just but a few introductory exercises you can perform as your tendon is recovering. As your recovery progresses, trial some tasks that were once painful/difficult.

Dupuytren’s Contracture is NOT Trigger Finger

There is another condition termed “Dupuytren’s Contracture” which may resemble trigger finger but is substantially different. This condition is marked by a thickening of tissue called fascia, which may harden into a nodule or a thick band and cause the finger to lock into a curl. Dupuytren’s Contracture is hereditary and the cause is unknown, whereas trigger finger is a mechanical issue.

It is highly advised to get an evaluation by your physician and your physical therapist to accurately diagnose and treat trigger finger.


Author: Dr. Genevieve Neely, PT, DPT

Jay Yi, PTA received his Bachelor degree in Criminology, Law and Society from the University of California, Irvine with an intent to pursue a career in law enforcement. Having an inclination towards stories of healing and recovery, he furthered his schooling at Stanbridge University where he received an Associate degree in Physical Therapy as a Physical Therapist Assistant. Jay has experience working with young and old in various settings including orthopedics, sports medicine, and in-patient skilled nursing facilities. As a Physical Therapist Assistant, he values tailoring each patient's rehabilitation strategy to achieve their goals and functional abilities, and inspiring ownership of their progress. His other passions include Star Wars, monster burritos, making music, and road tripping.

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