Trigger Thumb Treatment Options

Trigger Thumb Treatment Options

What is Trigger Thumb?

Trigger thumb (or finger) is a condition in which the thumb or a finger remains in a bent position for periods of time due to inflammation in the tendons.

In the hand, muscles and tendons work together to straighten and flex the fingers and thumb. Tendons, which are like fibrous cords, normally slide smoothly through a channel of tissue in the finger called a sheath. The sheath keeps the tendons in place and allows the tendons to extend and bend smoothly.

Trigger thumb or finger occurs when inflammation narrows the space between the tendon and the sheath surrounding it in the thumb. With trigger thumb, the tendon becomes swollen and inflamed and can no longer easily slide through the sheath. A bump, or nodule, may also form on the tendon, which causes even more friction, preventing the tendon from moving smoothly through the sheath. This can cause a snapping or clicking sensation and sound when the thumb is extended and bent. In severe cases, the thumb will be unable to extend from a bent position.

Treatments for Trigger Thumb

There are various non-invasive treatments for trigger thumb or finger, but if symptoms persist, surgery may be recommended.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Treatments will be recommended by your doctor depending on the severity of your symptoms. Treatment options include:

  • Rest – Letting the thumb or finger rest can help alleviate symptoms. If a particular activity is causing the condition, you may need to limit it. If that is not possible, padded gloves can help.
  • Splinting – Your doctor may give you a splint to keep your thumb or finger immobile to allow it to heal.
  • Stretching – To minimize stiffness and increase mobility, stretching exercises may be provided.
  • NSAIDs – Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDs may be recommended, such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Injection –Your doctor may recommend an injection to take down inflammation in the tendon sheath and eliminate “triggering.” Results may be seen within one day, or over a span of several weeks. If symptoms remain, a second shot may be recommended.


If non-surgical treatments are not effective, surgery will be considered. There are two types of surgeries for trigger thumb and finger:

  • Percutaneous release – In this procedure, the palm is numbed and a doctor inserts a needle into the area around the affected tendon, moving the needle and the thumb or finger to help loosen the tendon. The procedure is guided by ultrasound.
  • Tenolysis – Also called trigger thumb (or finger) release, this type of surgery is designed to release the tendon to allow the thumb or finger to move smoothly. The doctor makes a small incision at the base of the thumb or finger and opens the sheath around the tendon. This procedure is typically performed under local anesthesia to numb the hand.

Recovery from Surgery

Patients are typically encouraged to begin moving their hand right away following surgery for trigger thumb or finger. It is common to have some soreness in the palm following the procedure. Elevating the hand above the heart can help reduce pain and swelling.

The incision will heal within a few weeks, but it may take from as much as 4-6 months for swelling and stiffness in the hand and thumb or fingers to go away completely. Doctors sometimes refer patients to a physical or hand therapist to help with mobility and dexterity of the hand.

At Ortho Illinois, we have decades of experience in treating trigger thumb and finger. If you are experiencing symptoms related to this condition, contact us today. We are here to provide the best treatment possible for your unique situation.