Trigger finger treatment without surgery

Resting your hands if possible, wearing a splint at night and stretching exercises all can alleviate trigger finger without surgery.

A temporary sticking or popping in any finger or thumb when you bend the finger — trigger finger — can be treated without surgery, but in some cases an outpatient procedure may be needed to free the inflamed tendon causing the condition.

Trigger finger treatment can range from rest to surgery, depending on the severity of your condition.

Resting your hands if possible, wearing a splint at night, stretching exercises and a steroid injection all can alleviate trigger finger without surgery. Severity of trigger finger can be as simple as an annoying pop or sensation of the joint being stuck when you extend the finger. More severe cases are painful, with the digit stuck in a closed position.

“Trigger finger is a common complaint seen most frequently in adults over 40 who use a tight grip repeatedly. Often the condition can be treated without surgery, but if surgery is required, it’s a procedure with a high success rate and doesn’t require an overnight stay,” said Victor Fehrenbacher, M.D., hand surgeon with Norton Louisville Arm & Hand.

Related: How to fix a jammed finger

Next steps for trigger finger

The arm and hand surgeons at Norton Louisville Arm & Hand have broad expertise that ranges from treating ailments like carpal tunnel and trigger finger to more complex procedures such as reattachment microsurgery.

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Trigger finger treatment without surgery

  • If possible, avoid repetitive gripping and holding vibrating machinery to give the inflamed tendon time to rest.
  • A splint that keeps the affected finger extended can ease the inflammation after about six weeks of wearing it at night.
  • Gentle stretching exercises.
    • Lay the affected hand, palm down, on a flat surface and lift each digit in turn, holding it up for a second or two.
    • With your fingers and thumb extended, bring them together and put a rubber band around them toward the end. Extend the digits gently against the rubber band’s resistance.
  • A steroid injection can reduce inflammation to allow the tendon to move freely again and is 70% effective in relieving symptoms. More than one injection may be needed over time. If you have diabetes, if the triggering has been present longer than three months or if the finger is locked, steroid injections may not be as effective.

Surgery for trigger finger

If you have severe symptoms or steps like rest, splinting, exercises and injection haven’t helped, there are more aggressive treatments.

Your physician may recommend surgery on the affected finger. The surgery is an outpatient procedure done with local anesthetic. Through a small incision, the surgeon makes a small cut in the sheath surrounding the tendon to allow for freer movement.

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