What is trigger finger and trigger thumb?

Trigger finger or trigger thumb is when your fingers or thumb get stuck in a bent position – as if squeezing a “trigger.” Trigger finger can occur in one or more fingers. The ring finger is often one of the fingers affected. The condition is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis.

Who gets trigger finger or trigger thumb?

Trigger finger or trigger thumb is more commonly seen in:

  • People who have jobs, hobbies, or tasks that require strenuous repetitive motions; frequent, strong grasping or gripping, or forceful use of the fingers and/or thumb. For example, trigger finger frequently occurs in people who use their fingers or thumbs for multiple repetitive movements. These people may include:
    • Farmers
    • Industrial workers
    • Musicians
  • People who have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout or diabetes.
  • People between the ages of 40 and 60.

What causes the finger(s) or thumb to remain bent?

Tendons are bands of tissue that attach muscles to bones. In the hand, tendons and muscles must work together to flex and straighten your fingers and thumb. Usually, tendons slide easily through a tunnel of tissue called a sheath. The sheath keeps the tendons in place next to the bones of the finger(s) or thumb. With trigger finger or trigger thumb, the tendons become irritated and swollen (inflamed) and can no longer easily slide through their sheaths. A bump (nodule) may also form on the tendon, which makes it even more difficult for the tendon to easily glide through its sheath.

What are the signs and symptoms of trigger finger or trigger thumb?

Signs and symptoms of trigger finger or trigger thumb include:

  • Snapping or popping sensation when moving the finger(s) or thumb.
  • Soreness at the base of the finger or thumb in the palm, especially while gripping or grasping.
  • Pain and stiffness when bending the finger(s) or thumb.
  • Swelling or tender lump in the palm of the hand.
  • Locking of the finger(s) or thumb in the bent position (in severe cases). The finger(s) or thumb must be gently straightened with the help of the other hand.
  • Inability to fully flex the finger.

The stiffness and bent position of the finger(s) or thumb are worse in the morning. The stiffness lessens as the fingers and thumb are used.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/30/2019.


  • American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Trigger Finger. Accessed 5/1/2019.
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Trigger Finger. Accessed 5/1/2019.
  • American Association for Hand Surgery. Trigger Finger FAQ. Accessed 5/1/2019.

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