Diagnosis

Diagnosis of trigger finger doesn't require any elaborate testing. Your doctor or health care provider makes the diagnosis based on your medical history and a physical exam. During the physical exam, your doctor will ask you to open and close your hand, checking for areas of pain, smoothness of motion and evidence of locking.

Your doctor will also feel your palm to see if there is a lump present. If the lump is associated with trigger finger, the lump will move as the finger moves because the lump is an area of swelling in part of the tendon that moves the finger.

Treatment

Trigger finger treatment varies depending on its severity and duration.

Medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs — such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen (Aleve) — may relieve the pain but are unlikely to relieve the swelling constricting the tendon sheath or trapping the tendon.

Therapy

Conservative noninvasive treatments may include:

  • Rest. Avoid activities that require repetitive gripping, repeated grasping or the prolonged use of vibrating hand-held machinery until your symptoms improve. If you can't avoid these activities altogether, padded gloves may offer some protection.
  • A splint. Your doctor may have you wear a splint at night to keep the affected finger in an extended position for up to six weeks. The splint helps rest the tendon.
  • Stretching exercises. Your doctor may also suggest gentle exercises to help maintain mobility in your finger.

Surgical and other procedures

If your symptoms are severe or if conservative treatments haven't helped, your doctor might suggest:

  • Steroid injection. An injection of a steroid medication near or into the tendon sheath may reduce inflammation and allow the tendon to glide freely again. This is the most common treatment, and it's usually effective for a year or more in most people treated. But sometimes it takes more than one injection.

    For people with diabetes, steroid injections tend to be less effective.

  • Percutaneous release. After numbing your palm, your doctor inserts a sturdy needle into the tissue around your affected tendon. Moving the needle and your finger helps break apart the constriction that's blocking the smooth motion of the tendon.

    This treatment may be done under ultrasound control, so the doctor can see where the tip of the needle is under the skin to be sure it opens the tendon sheath without damaging the tendon or nearby nerves. This procedure is usually done in the doctor's office or in an office procedure room.

  • Surgery. Working through a small incision near the base of your affected finger, a surgeon can cut open the constricted section of tendon sheath. This procedure is usually done in an operating room.

Preparing for your appointment

You'll probably start by seeing your primary care doctor to determine what could be causing your symptoms.

What you can do

Make sure to bring a list of all the medications and supplements you take regularly. You might also want to write down some questions for your doctor in advance. Examples may include:

  • What's causing my symptoms?
  • Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
  • What treatments are available?
  • Are there complications associated with this condition or its treatments?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor or health care provider is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over important information a second time.

Questions your doctor might ask include:

  • What symptoms are you experiencing?
  • How long have you been experiencing these symptoms?
  • Do your symptoms seem to come and go, or do you always have them?
  • Does anything seem to make your symptoms better?
  • Does anything seem to make your symptoms worse?
  • Are your symptoms worse in the morning or at any particular time of the day?
  • Do you perform repetitive tasks on the job or for hobbies?
  • Have you recently experienced any injury to your hand?