Treatment of trigger finger
Sometimes, trigger finger gets better without any treatment. Your doctor may ask you to rest your hand. You should try not to do any activities that make it worse for a while. If you have mild symptoms, these may go away on their own within a few weeks.
If your trigger finger doesn’t go away, you may need treatment. Treatments include painkillers, splinting, steroid injections and surgery.
Splinting and pain relief
Your GP may suggest a combination of splinting and pain relief for four to six weeks to see if this helps. They may recommend you see a physiotherapist (a health professional who specialises in maintaining and improving movement and mobility).
You wear the splint on your finger or thumb at night to keep it straight and stop it moving. This helps smooth the roughened part of your tendon by keeping it inside the tendon sheath.
You can take over-the-counter medicines, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, to reduce pain and swelling in your finger. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. If you have any questions, ask your pharmacist.
Your GP or specialist doctor may offer you a steroid injection instead of splinting and painkillers or if splinting and painkillers don’t help. Or, you may have a steroid injection as well as splinting and painkillers.
If you choose not to have a steroid injection, your doctor may refer you to a hand therapist for further splinting.
If you have the injection, your doctor will inject a steroid medicine into the inflamed area of your tendon sheath. The steroid is mixed with a local anaesthetic medicine to lessen pain. Your symptoms may improve within a few days but it may take a week or two. If the first injection doesn't help or only partially works, your doctor may offer you another one.
Steroid injections don’t work for everyone with trigger finger. If your symptoms don’t go away after steroid injections, your doctor may offer you an operation.
If other treatments don’t work, your doctor may offer you an operation to treat trigger finger. This is called ‘trigger release’ surgery. Surgery may be the best treatment for you if your finger is locked in a bent position. Ask your doctor to explain the risks and benefits of surgery for you.
In trigger release surgery, your surgeon cuts the part of the tendon sheath which is blocking movement. This lets your finger move normally again, as well as stopping any pain. There are two main ways of doing this procedure.
- Open trigger release surgery. Your surgeon makes a small cut in the palm of your hand to reach the tendon sheath. You’ll have a small scar afterwards.
- Percutaneous trigger release surgery. Your surgeon puts a needle through the skin of your palm to reach and cut the tendon sheath. This procedure isn’t suitable for everyone.
If you’re having one of these procedures, your doctor will tell you what’s involved. Both procedures are usually done as day-cases, which means you won’t need to stay in hospital overnight. You’ll be given a local anaesthetic so you won’t feel any pain, but you’ll be awake.
Your doctor will encourage you to move your finger right away after the surgery. You might get some swelling or soreness for a while. And your finger or thumb might feel a bit stiff at first. It can take several months for all the swelling and stiffness to go away.
Trigger finger doesn’t usually come back after surgery.