WHAT is trigger finger?

Stenosing tenosynovitis is a painful condition in which the finger is stuck in a bent position. The finger may catch and lock when bended or straightened, causing it to snap like a trigger being pulled and released, and thereby being coined the name “trigger finger”. It is a common condition seen in outpatient clinic settings, with a prevalence of 2% in the general population and up to 20% in diabetic patients.

Apart from the distinctive popping or clicking sensation of the affected finger, you may also experience any of the following:
  • Finger stiffness, particularly in the morning or after long periods of inactivity
  • Pain when moving the affected finger
  • Warm or painful bump (nodule) in the palm at the base of the affected finger
  • Finger catching or locking in a bent position, which suddenly pops straight when forced
  • Finger locked in a bent position
  • WHY does trigger finger occur?

    On the palm side of each finger, there is a flexor tendon that allows the finger to bend. Each of these tendons passes through a narrow tunnel-like sheath in the palms and fingers, and glides along smoothly as the finger moves. However, when the space that surrounds the tendon is narrowed due to irritation and inflammation, the tendon will be not able to glide smoothly, thus affecting movement and causing it to pop or click.

    WHO is more prone to trigger finger?

    There are several risk factors that increase the susceptibility of trigger finger:
  • Occupation: It is common among industrial workers, musicians, and anyone else who engages in repetitive gripping actions.
  • Gender: It is more common in women.
  • Underlying health conditions: Patients with diabetes, gout, and/or rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to be affected.
  • WHERE can trigger finger occur?

    Trigger finger can affect one or more fingers at a time, including the thumb, or even involve both hands.

    WHEN will trigger finger tend to get worse?

    Symptoms often start mild and get worse over time. Finger stiffness and pain are usually more pronounced after periods of inactivity, such as in the morning, or when trying to straighten the finger forcefully. The pain gets better after some movements, or after hot compression.

    HOW can we manage trigger finger?

    Western management and treatment typically involve:
  • Rest: Avoid the action that is causing the problem (e.g. repetitive gripping)
  • Splinting: Keep the affected finger in an extended and neutral position to rest the tendon
  • Stretching exercises: Help to ease finger stiffness and improve mobility
  • Painkillers: Fight inflammation and reduce pain
  • Steroid injection or surgery: Reduce swelling and inflammation or release the catch
  • Besides rest, splinting and stretching exercises, TCM treatment have additional ways to further reduce pain and promote faster recovery:
  • ACUPUNCTURE: Help to release the nodule, reduce inflammation and swelling, improve blood circulation, and reduce pain
  • MASSAGE: Gently massage the base of the affected finger (where it is painful or where the nodule is located). Help to improve blood circulation and reduce pain
  • HERBAL MEDICATION: Able to fight inflammation and reduce pain while improving blood circulation
  • As mentioned, stretching exercises are important to reduce finger stiffness and increase range of motion to promote recovery. Here are some simple exercises that you can do at the comfort of home:


    With proper stretching and appropriate treatment, trigger finger has a good prognosis and can recover completely. However, even so, do remember to not over-exert your fingers after recovery, or it will trigger another episode of inflammation

    Health Education