Rehabilitation for Trigger Finger

Trigger finger is a common and painful disorder of a finger's flexor tendon that causes the finger to "catch" or "lock" when bent or released (if the thumb is affected, the condition is called "trigger thumb"). Trigger finger can be caused by repetitive motion of the finger, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and gout. Grasping something for an extended period of time can also result in trigger finger.

Nonsurgical Rehabilitation for Trigger Finger

The fingers and thumb are able to bend and straighten because of tendons and muscles in the hands and arms. A tendon usually moves smoothly through the sheath (tissue) that covers it. However, when a finger's flexor tendon becomes inflamed, it may not be able to move smoothly through the sheath so that, when an attempt is made to bend or release the finger, the pulling of the enlarged tendon through the sheath results in the tendon's catching or locking. Applying ice and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications are recommended treatments for trigger finger. Physical therapy that includes wearing a splint to keep the joint from moving may be helpful. The quickest and most effective treatment, however, is a cortisone injection into the affected tendon's sheath.

Surgical Rehabilitation for Trigger Finger

If trigger finger persists after two cortisone injections, and is not helped by ice, stretching or anti-inflammatories, surgery may be recommended. During surgery for trigger finger, the tendon sheath is released, and/or inflamed or scarred tissue is removed. Although the finger can be moved right after surgery, the palm of hand, which is where the incision is made, may be sore. To lessen swelling and pain, lifting the hand above the heart on a frequent basis may be recommended.

In cases in which the finger/thumb is difficult to straighten after surgery, wearing a brace to straighten it may be helpful. Additional rehabilitative physical therapy may include the following:

  • Exercises to increase range of motion
  • Heat treatments
  • Soft-tissue massage

Only a physical therapist familiar with treating trigger finger should be used during the rehabilitative process.

Additional Resources