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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Treating trigger finger

Simply resting your hand for four to six weeks is often enough to fix trigger finger. This lets any inflammation clear up and may solve the problem without any other treatment. This is usually the first thing to try, as it works for most people.

Using a simple support that keeps your finger straight at night can help. You can get a resting splint from a hand therapist.

You can take paracetamol (Panadol) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Nurofen) for pain, if they're safe for you.

To reduce the chance of it coming back, try using padded gloves if you regularly use tools that press against the palm of your hand.

Steroid injection

If rest doesn't work, your GP may be able to give you a steroid injection into the tendon sheath. Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medicines that reduce swelling. This treatment works in about 90% of cases. You might need a second injection if the first one doesn't work.

Steroid injections for trigger finger work best if you have them within three months of first noticing any symptoms.

After your injection, you can use your hand for light activities while you slowly return to your usual activities. You should protect your finger for a few weeks by avoiding repetitive gripping, grasping, palm pressure and vibration.

If your GP isn't experienced at giving steroid injections, they will be able to refer you to a GP who is.

Hand therapist or physiotherapist

You may wish to pay to see a private hand therapist. They can help with treatments for trigger finger including exercises, finger splints and occupational advice. Some private physiotherapists may also have experience at managing trigger finger. In some cases, ACC will help with the cost of your treatment.

Plastic surgeon or orthopaedic surgeon

Only a few people need surgery for trigger finger, as steroid injections are very effective. But if you've had two steroid injections and still cannot straighten your finger, with or without using your other hand, surgery may be an option. Your GP can refer you to a plastic surgeon or orthopaedic surgeon.

Surgery aims to release the tendon sheath so the tendon can glide more easily. It's done under a local anaesthetic injection that numbs the area while you're still awake.

You may choose to pay to see a private plastic surgeon or private orthopaedic surgeon.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Plastic Surgery. Last reviewed April 2021.

See also:

Preparing for your doctor's visit


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