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Clicking and locking of a finger or thumb is generally known as a “Trigger finger” or “Trigger thumb.” This is a common condition involving inflammation or thickening of the tendon that bends your fingers or thumb. The tendon passes through a pulley in the palm of the hand, however when the tendon is inflamed, it can catch or lock as you make a fist or grip items.  


What causes trigger finger? 

Trigger finger is caused by repetitive or prolonged gripping which causes inflammation to the flexor tendons. It can affect a single finger or multiple fingers. It can come on quickly with a sudden increase in activity levels (such as cleaning out the garage and doing all the gardening in one weekend). Or it can occur gradually over time (such as when doing a job that is highly repetitive). 

What are the symptoms? 

Patients often report the following: 

  • Tenderness in palm and middle knuckle of finger 
  • Clicking or locking when bending and straightening finger or thumb. May be described as a “snapping” or “popping” feeling. 
  • With increasing severity, the thumb or finger may lock into the palm and become stuck, requiring passive extension with the other hand 

How is trigger finger treated? 

Generally your hand therapist will recommend a period of rest for the tendon. This is achieved through the use of a thermoplastic splint. There are various splints that can be used depending on the severity of the condition and lifestyle of the patient. The therapist will also instruct you regarding massage and passive exercises.  

In some cases, patients may also require further intervention such as a cortisone injection or referral to a hand surgeon. Your therapist will advise if this is appropriate for your case. 

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your treatment may include: 


Massage & Exercise

The goal of hand therapy is to provide relief from symptoms, rest the structures and address issues to avoid recurrence of the condition.  

By Angela Frigerio | BOccThy
Occupational Therapist, Accredited Hand Therapist