Contact us
General enquiries 020 7806 4000
Urgent care clinic 020 7432 8300
Book an appointment 020 7806 4060

Trigger Finger Release

Trigger finger happens when a tendon, or the tunnel the tendon runs through, becomes swollen and inflamed. Surgery may be recommended if other treatments have not worked or are not suitable. Trigger finger surgery is very effective and it’s rare for the problem to return in the treated finger or thumb.

Also known as: A1 pulley release (the procedure), trigger finger is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis

Contact Hand & Wrist Clinic

What is trigger finger?

Trigger finger happens when a tendon, or the tunnel the tendon runs through, becomes swollen and inflamed. This causes the tendon to catch or jam and make it difficult to bend the affected finger or thumb. It can also cause stiffness and pain.

Everything you need to know

Trigger finger is a condition that affects one or more of the hand’s tendons. These are the tough ropes that connect the bones to the muscles, and help control movement in your thumb and fingers. If a tendon, or the tunnel a tendon runs through, becomes swollen and inflamed, the tendon can “catch” and will not glide smoothly. The finger or thumb will click painfully as it straightens.

Trigger finger can affect your thumb and any finger. One or more of your fingers can be affected, and the problem may develop in both your hands.

The exact reason why trigger finger happens isn’t known. However, it is more common in women, people over 40, and people who have diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of trigger finger include:

  • Pain in the palm of your hand or at the base of the affected finger or thumb
  • Stiffness or clicking when you move your finger or thumb, particularly first thing in the morning
  • A lump in your palm
  • Your finger may lock in a bent position, which means you have to stretch or pull it straight. This can be very painful. Eventually, it may not fully bend or straighten.
  • Pain when gripping things such as when you’re cooking, opening a door or playing sport.

Before

Our hand & wrist doctors can make a diagnosis during your first appointment. They will examine your hand and fingers and ask about your symptoms, such as when you first noticed them, and if certain activities make them worse.

The treatment for trigger finger depends on the severity of your symptoms and how long you’ve had them. There are several treatment options, which include:

  • Resting your hand and avoiding heavy gripping exercises
  • Taking anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to help relieve pain
  • Wearing a splint, particularly at night, to help keep your finger straight and prevent it from locking in the morning
  • A corticosteroid injection – If you find your symptoms don’t settle, we would recommend a corticosteroid injection into the base of the finger or thumb. This settles symptoms completely in around 70% of cases. This can be done during a consultation with one of our Hand & Wrist doctors and only takes a few minutes. You can then carry on with your day as normal.
  • Surgery

During

Surgery may be recommended if other treatments have not worked or are not suitable. Trigger finger surgery is very effective and it’s rare for the problem to return in the treated finger or thumb.

Trigger finger surgery is a simple day case operation, which means you can be treated and go home the same day. It is usually performed with local anaesthetic, so you will be awake but have no sensation in your hand. Your surgeon will make the operation as safe as possible but complications can happen. These will have been discussed with you during your consultation. You should ask your doctor if there is anything you do not understand.

The operation takes around 20 minutes to complete. Your surgeon will make a small cut in the palm of your hand at the base of the finger. The roof of the tendon tunnel will be cut, allowing it to glide freely again. The small skin wound will then be closed with stitches and covered in a bandage.

After

After surgery, we will take you to your private room where you can start your recovery. Once the anaesthetic wears off, you’ll be able to go home. You will need a friend or relative to collect you as you will not be able to drive after surgery.

You should be able to move all your fingers straight away. On the instruction of your doctor, the bandages can be removed after a few days. Full finger movement should return within a few weeks. However, if you’ve had surgery on several fingers, your recovery period may be longer.

After surgery, our hand and wrist doctors can also refer you to our specialist hand therapy team. They will give you some exercises and advice to ensure you have a smooth and successful recovery.

If you have a desk job or a job that involves manual labour: be careful when using your hand for the first two weeks. Light everyday activities should be okay but no heavy lifting for two weeks after surgery. If you have a desk job, you should be able to return to work straight away. If your job involves manual labour, you may need to take 4 weeks off.

Driving should be avoided for at least the first 3-5 days after surgery. Take advice from your doctor on return to driving, and only do so when you feel you are safe.

People who play sports may need to avoid heavy exercises for the first ten days or so and avoid heavy lifting for longer. Take advice from your doctor.

How to pay for your treatment

If you’re… paying for yourself

Did you know you don’t need private medical insurance to come to St John & St Elizabeth Hospital? As a self-pay patient, you can access safe, outstanding quality health care at times to suit you.

For scans and tests, as well as to see most consultants, you’ll still need to be referred by a medical professional like your GP, but as a self-pay patient, the process is more straightforward. You won’t need authorisation from an insurance provider, and you’ll have greater choice of consultant and appointment times.

If you’re… insured

St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is approved by all major medical insurance companies. If you have a personal private health insurance policy, or your company provide it for you, you can use it to pay for your care from your initial consultation through to treatment, surgery and aftercare such as physiotherapy. Not all private health insurance plans cover the same things. It’s very important to check exactly what you are covered for with your insurance provider.