Children's Hospital Colorado

Trigger Finger

What is trigger finger?

Trigger finger is a condition in which a person’s finger or thumb gets stuck in a bent position and then straightens with a snap, much like a trigger being pulled and let go. If trigger finger is severe, the finger may become locked in a bent position.

Who gets trigger finger?

The cause of trigger finger is not exactly known. There is a theory that repetitively falling on an outstretched hand could cause irritation and inflammation of the tendons that might eventually lead to trigger finger. Kids and adults with hobbies or work that require repetitive gripping actions are also more susceptible.

More females are seen with trigger fingers than males. People who are at greater risk may have other medical conditions such as diabetes.

What are the signs and symptoms of trigger finger?

  • A stiff finger that gets worse after activities
  • A clicking/popping sensation with movement of the joint
  • A bump or tenderness at the base of the finger
  • Pain in the palm
  • The finger may catch or lock in a bent position and then suddenly pop straight
  • The finger gets locked in a bent position and your child is unable to straighten

When a finger is stuck in the bent position and can no longer be straightened, medical care is needed to prevent permanent damage. Seek immediate medical care if your child’s finger joint is warm to touch, red and swollen because it may be infected.

How is trigger finger diagnosed?

The diagnosis of trigger finger does not require elaborate testing, other than reviewing your child’s medical history and doing a physical exam. During the physical exam, your child’s doctor will ask him or her to open and close the hand while checking for areas of pain, smoothness of motion and evidence of locking.

How is trigger finger treated?

Treatment for trigger finger depends on the severity and duration of problem.

Conservative treatment for mild symptoms includes:

  • Resting the finger
  • Limiting activities
  • Wearing a splint on the finger for a few weeks
  • Soaking the finger in warm water for 5-10 minutes at a time several times a day
  • Massaging the finger to help alleviate the pain
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medications

Surgery is the best approach when a finger is stuck in the bent position. This opens the tunnel allowing the tendon to slide through again, permitting the finger to straighten without difficulty. This is usually an outpatient procedure done though a small incision in the palm. Fingers can be moved immediately after the procedure is complete.

If the finger was stiff or stuck for a prolonged period of time, occupational therapy may help your child regain all motion in the finger after surgery.

Why choose our Hand Center for the treatment of your child’s trigger finger?

The Hand Center at Children’s Hospital Colorado evaluates, diagnoses and treats children with decreased hand function from trauma (acute or chronic), congenital deficiencies or from complications of neuromuscular disease. The clinic is staffed by hand surgeons and occupational therapists who specialize in the hand, fingers and wrist, with consultation from pediatric physiatrists (rehabilitation doctors).


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