What causes trigger thumb in adults

What is trigger thumb?

Trigger thumb is a condition that affects one or more tendon in the hand, making it difficult to bend the thumb or finger. The thumb locks in the middle of its range of motion and can result in a slickly sensation.

Trigger thumb is most common among young adults, typically between 20 and 50 years old.

Trigger thumb occurs if there is a problem with the tendon or sheath, such as inflammation and swelling. The tendons can no longer slide easily through the sheath and can bunch up to form a small lump.

What are the symptoms of trigger thumb?

Symptoms of trigger thumb include pain at the base of the finger or thumb. The trigger points are very painful, even to touch.

Pain is felt when the affected finger or thumb is moved or pressed. A stiffness or clicking can occur when the finger or thumb is moved. This pain is especially felt first thing in the morning.

At its worst, your finger or thumb may get stuck at a bent angle and then suddenly pop straight.

The causes of trigger thumb

There are two types of trigger thumb: traumatic and idiopathic. Traumatic trigger thumb is caused by an injury to the hand, such as jamming your finger or falling on it. Idiopathic trigger thumb happens without any known reason, though there may be a genetic factor.

The trigger point may exist due to repetitive motions and activities that put pressure on the hand. These trigger points can easily develop in jobs that require extensive use of the thumb. Jobs that increase risk of trigger thumb are painters, carpenters, farmers, industrial workers and musicians.

Another risk factor associated with trigger thumb is gender. It is more common in women than men.

Some specific health conditions can also increase the likelihood of getting trigger thumb. These include diabetes, gout and rheumatoid arthritis.

How to treat trigger thumb

Splint –

Trigger thumb help can come from the use of a splint. Wearing a plastic splint can help the thumb recover. The splint can aid healing and reduce pain caused by swelling, by immobilising and supporting the thumb.

Splints can also aid in the progression of deformity. Furthermore, if you have trigger thumb in multiple fingers you are able to wear multiple splints without limiting hand function.

A splint can be worn all day and night, as they are lightweight and comfortable. They are hardly noticeable by the wearer and therefore can be worn at all times to reduce the symptoms of trigger thumb.

Rest –

A splint will aid a lot in allowing you to rest the injury. If possible, you should avoid activities that will strain the injury.

Medication –

If you are in a lot of pain you may need to see your doctor in order to be prescribed medication. This could either be in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid injections. Your GP will be able to suggest which is most appropriate for you.

Surgery –

If you have tried all other methods of treatment with no success, your trigger thumb may require surgery. Surgery can allow the affected tendon to move freely again, and is usually 100% effective where other treatments have failed.

When to see a doctor

You should see a doctor for your trigger thumb if the joint is hot and inflamed. These can be symptoms of an infection. Furthermore, if you in a lot of pain then you should see your doctor for help managing it and not suffer in silence.Ways trigger thumb can be prevented


Some trigger thumb is unavoidable. However, in order to prevent further problems you should avoid activities that could put pressure on your trigger finger or thumb. If you are in a high risk profession then you should take extra precautions when working with dangerous equipment. Equally, if you experience pain in trigger fingers when playing an instrument it may be best to stop playing until the injury has fully healed.