Best 5 Exercises for Trigger Finger

Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis is a condition affecting mostly the ring finger and the thumb. At Surrey Physio we mostly see patients presenting with painless clicking, locking, stiffness and a loss of full flexion and/or extension of the affected finger/thumb. At times patients may experience a painful nodule, swelling and stiffness upon waking with locking of the affected digit which improves over the course of the day. There are many potential risk factors that could lead to trigger finger. It mostly affects older adults in their 5th to 6th decade in life. Women experience this condition more than men and the incidence rises with diabetes. We see a lot of patients request an injection for trigger finger, which we perform on-site.

There are several possible causes of trigger finger however most relate to repetitive finger movements and the aging of the tendons and soft tissues in the finger. Some occupations that involve a lot of gripping and flexion of the hand (e.g., holding power tools) may be exposed to a greater risk. However, the reasons for trigger can be multifactorial and not linked to just one variable. Some medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, carpel tunnel, de Quervain’s and hypothyroidism are linked to the development of trigger finger.

The fingers are made up of three joints each and movement is created by muscles and tendons which mainly flex and extend the fingers. Trigger finger is thought to be caused by inflammation, resulting in the narrowing of the soft tissue the tendon passes through. To diagnose trigger finger, the presentation of symptoms such as locking, popping, inflammation and pain may be necessary. In some cases, diagnosis might be confirmed with an injection of lidocaine into the finger which relieves pain and allows for the locked finger to be passively mobilised, however this is not required.

At Surrey Physio we mostly treat trigger finger by first gaining an insight into activities contributing to your symptoms and modifying these. Often you will have to take a break from aggravating activities to allow for the finger to recover. At time we may recommend splinting the finger in an extended position. We also prescribe stretching exercises. If this does not work, we can help by injecting a corticosteroid where the tendon is getting inflamed, just on the palmar surface of the hand. Research shows that a steroid injection can be around 80% successful. This can help reduce inflammation and relive symptoms. Often the injection provides quick and effective relief for most people. Our charge for the injection is £120.00 (at the time this article was written – please check any updates on our price page).

In some cases, it might be worth considering surgical intervention if all conservative treatment fails. Surgery is done to release the tendon and allow it to move freely again. This procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis and involves making a small incision in the affected area to release the inflamed tendon. It is important to commence exercises after surgery to allow the return of function to the finger.

At Surrey Physio we encounter many patients that have gone through this surgery and helped them to recover. We use a combination of hands-on treatments (massage, mobilisations) exercises and education and advice to help patients achieve their goals. It is important that you visit us in clinic if you are experiencing symptom of trigger finger as it can lead to complications that reduce the function of the fingers.

We have developed the top 5 exercises we think can help you self-manage trigger finger using our advanced exercise software (Rehab my patient).

Sore finger extension exercise

Bend your whole finger backwards and hold the stretch. You can do this on any one or all your fingers. This exercise will help mobilise your finger.

Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 6-10 times daily

Finger pain exercise

Place your thumb underneath the top joint of your injured finger. Bend the top joint of your finger. This exercise will help mobilise your finger joint.

Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 6-10 times daily

Assisted finger extension exercise

Bend the tip of your finger backwards and hold. This exercise will help mobilise your finger joint.

Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 6-10 times daily

Passive PIP Extension

Rest your palm on a table with your finger pads touching the surface of the table. Gently push down on your middle finger joint to extend your finger moving it closer to the table. Repeat on any of the stiff fingers. This is a finger mobilisation exercise.

Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 6-10 times daily

Isometric finger extension

Place your injured hand on a flat surface and hold down one finger. Try to lift your finger up against the resistance. This exercise will strengthen your finger tendons.

Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 6-10 times daily

Trigger finger is a common condition mostly seen in older adults. If treated early most patients can avoid future complications. Physiotherapy and osteopathy are very helpful to restore function to the finger post or pre surgery depending on the severity. If you are looking for your next steps please come and see us in clinic.

(Therapists: if you are reading this page, these videos are provided by Rehab My Patient – the best exercise prescription software for therapists to prescribe exercises Free trial available on their website. Patients: If you are a patient needing advice or a course of treatment, call Surrey Physio to book a telephone/video consultation with one of our expert physios or osteopaths, or book in face-to-face for an appointment. You can call us on 0208 685 6930 or book online by clicking the link at the top of the page).