Trigger Thumb Pain


A "trigger thumb" is a condition where your thumb is locked into a bent position. Severity varies with each person, thus there are several modes of treatment to consider. The condition is often painful and found in patients who use their hands for repetitive gripping actions in work, hobbies or regular daily activities. Consult with your doctor about any concerns you have with a loss of mobility and pain in your thumb.


  • In your hand are a series of muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments as well as nerves that allow your hand the many types of fine motor skills used daily. Constant strain with friction can cause nodules to form on the tendon that prevent the natural gliding of the tendon when being pulled along its path. Irritation may increase swelling, which may in turn lead to a locking of the finger. This may happen as a result of rheumatoid arthritis, frequent use of power tools or even holding a steering wheel for extended periods of time.


  • Those with a trigger thumb condition will have pain and may notice a click when bending their thumb. If you have trigger thumb, your pain is likely to be worst when the thumb is extended and find relief when the thumb is bent. If the nodule becomes inflamed, then the finger may become stuck in a bent position, unable to free itself past the nodule to slide back into a straight position. Trying to straighten the thumb will increase pain.

Pain Centers

  • The pain that develops from trigger finger is often caused from the narrowing of the sheath surrounding the tendon. In most cases, the nodules do not affect the median nerve that runs through the hand as it does in carpal tunnel syndrome. Pain is most often at the base of the hand where the thumb's meaty section joints the hand and wrist. You will feel tenderness in this area and possibly even the nodule. You may experience minor chronic pain that increases when the finger gets into locked positions.


  • If your case of trigger thumb is not severe, then you should be able to pop the finger back into place. Over time, if you do not adjust your activities, the nodule will increase in size and create more bouts with locking. With a larger nodule(s), popping it back into place may become more difficult and painful. Those who are suffering from trigger finger are recommended to rest the hand and use a splint to keep the finger extended. A massage may help the pain but will not reduce the inflammation. Ibuprofen is advised by doctors to help with swelling and a steroid injection may be prescribed as well. These will also reduce pain. If your case becomes severe, surgery may be required to remove the nodule.

Rehabilitation and Prevention

  • Once you have developed trigger thumb, it will be difficult to stop the progression into a more serious condition. Reduce gripping and repetitive movements as much as possible. Ask your doctor about finger exercises that help the thumb to retain its mobility. When you do a lot of gripping, rest your hand and soak it in ice and later warm water. This will first reduce swelling and then promote circulation. Warm water baths in the morning will help prepare your thumb for the day's activities. Discuss all options with your doctor to reduce pain.

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