What is trigger finger?

Triger finger is a condition that causes the fingers or thumb to suddenly snap or lock when bent. It is caused by inflammation and swelling of the tendons in the finger and it is more likely to develop in females and usually in the 50s to 60s age group

What causes trigger finger?

  • Inflammation or injury to the tendon sheaths
  • Overuse or repetitive strain to tendons in the finger (e.g. carrying shopping bags or a briefcase, prolonged writing, rock climbing, or the strenuous grasping of small tools)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gout
  • Diabetes


  • Painless clicking initially during finger movement
  • Can progress to painful catching or popping
  • Finger stiffness and swelling (especially in the morning)
  • Painful nodule may be felt along the finger tendon or at the base of finger

How is it treated?

As with most musculoskeletal conditions, management must involve a combination of medical and physiotherapeutic treatments.

Medical management involves prescription drugs to relieve pain, inflammation and ease muscle spasm e.g. NSAIDs and muscle relaxants; topical pain relief e.g. analgesic patch; joint injection if recommended.

Physiotherapy management:

  • Activity modification
  • Resting with finger splint use for 6-10 weeks (e.g. oval-8 finger splint in clinic)
  • Ice cube massage/ cold compress
  • Therapeutic modalities such as SIS therapy, electrical stimulation and ultrasound treatment
  • Manual therapy as tolerated (therapist applies hands-on treatment to alleviate joint stiffness and muscular tension where applicable)
  • Therapeutic exercises to help improve tendon gliding & joint mobility

Surgical management (when conservative treatment fails)

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