Causes of trigger finger 

Trigger finger is usually caused by swelling of one of the tendons that run along your fingers and thumbs, although the exact reason why this occurs isn't fully understood.

The swelling makes it difficult for the affected tendon to slide through its membrane (tendon sheath), causing the pain and stiffness associated with trigger finger.

The swelling can cause a section of the tendon to become bunched into a small lump (nodule) at the base of the affected finger or thumb.

If a nodule forms, the tendon can get trapped in the tendon sheath, causing the affected finger or thumb to become temporarily stuck in a bent position. The affected tendon may then suddenly break free, releasing your finger like the release of a trigger.

Who's most at risk?

The exact cause of trigger finger isn't fully understood. However, you're more at risk of developing trigger finger if:

  • you're female (trigger finger is more common in women than men)
  • you're aged in your 40s or 50s (trigger finger is more common in these age groups)
  • you've had a previous hand injury – trigger finger may be more likely to develop after injuring the base of your finger or palm

Other health conditions

You may also be more likely to develop trigger finger if you have any of the following conditions:

  • diabetes – a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high
  • rheumatoid arthritis – a long-term condition caused by a problem with your immune system (the body’s natural defence system), resulting in pain and stiffness in your joints
  • gout – a type of arthritis where crystals of sodium urate form inside and around joints causing them to become inflamed (swollen)
  • amyloidosis – a condition where an abnormal protein called amyloid builds up in organs, such as your liver
  • underactive thyroid – where your body doesn't produce enough of certain hormones
  • carpal tunnel syndrome – a condition that affects the nerves in your wrist, causing pain and tingling
  • Dupuytren’s contracture – a condition that causes one or more fingers to bend into the palm of your hand
  • De Quervain’s disease – a condition that affects the tendons in your thumb, causing pain in your wrist

Page last reviewed: 01/09/2015

Next review due: 01/09/2017