Trigger finger/thumb occurs when the pulley at the base of the finger becomes too thick and constricting around the tendon, making it hard for the tendon to move freely through the pulley. Sometimes the tendon develops a nodule (knot) or swelling of its lining. Because of the increased resistance to the gliding of the tendon through the pulley, one may feel pain, popping, or a catching feeling in the finger or thumb.

What to do when an injury occurs

This description for trigger finger/thumb—a.k.a. stenosing tenosynovitis—is provided by the American Society for surgery of the Hand (ASSH) website. As of this writing, the medical world is yet unsure of what causes the condition, but there are several factors known to put someone at high risk of developing a trigger finger disorder. These include gout, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.


The symptoms of trigger finger/thumb are very straightforward: the “locking” effect when the affected finger is used, pain in the finger joint, and swelling in the palm of the hand. The condition tends to occur more frequently in the dominant hand. The stiffness caused by the condition could be worse in the morning, right after a person wakes up.

Trigger finger/thumb treatment

There are conservative ways to treat the condition, and a Redwood City urgent care physician usually starts with those. “The wearing of a splint or taking an oral anti-inflammatory medication may sometimes help. Treatment may also include changing activities to reduce swelling. An injection of steroid into the area around the tendon and pulley is often effective in relieving the trigger finger/thumb,” according to the ASSH article. “If non-surgical forms of treatment do not relieve the symptoms, surgery may be recommended.”

Surgery for trigger finger/thumb is an out-patient procedure that involves placing the patient under local anesthesia or light sedation, and making a small incision in the palm. Recovery from the procedure is usually quick—most patients can already move their fingers right after surgery.

When to see a doctor

Most patients are reluctant to have their trigger finger/thumb examined by a Redwood City walk in clinic physician until the symptoms become severe. If you suspect that you have this condition, it is better for you to be treated sooner rather than later by urgent care centers like U.S. HealthWorks, so you’ll have a bigger chance of receiving a more conservative treatment.

(Article information and image from: “Trigger Finger,” American Society for Surgery of the Hand)