Trigger finger or thumb can affect children when they are young, but often goes away without the need for any treatment.

Overview

What is trigger thumb/finger?

Trigger thumb is where a child finds it difficult or impossible to fully extend one of their thumbs or fingers. It is fairly uncommon in children, and is more often seen in adults.

Cause

There is a fibrous band (ligament) that sits under the thumb or finger tendon – if this is too tight, it prevents the ability for the tendon to do a gliding motion through the tendon sheath if stretched, and this causes the tendon to become inflamed.

Symptoms

While at first, your child may be able to extend their thumb or finger, this can be uncomfortable or painful. There might be outwardly obvious symptoms such as swelling or a clicking sound. Later on, the thumb or finger may become stuck in a flexed position and you may be able to feel a bump at the base of the thumb or finger on your child’s palm.

Diagnosis

Usually, a physical exam is enough to provide a diagnosis and no X-rays or other investigations are needed.


Treatment

Most children will not require treatment and it will get better by itself. For half of the children who experience trigger thumb or finger, by the time they turn 3 it will have gone away.

If after the age of 3 there is still a problem with the thumb or finger, then surgical treatment may be required. This will see the tendon released from the tendon sheath where it is catching, allowing it to glide more easily.


Helpful resources


A patient's story

Ellis

"I wanted to thank you for not only your work on Ellis' elbow, but your positive attitude and swift treatment. Everything healed well and Ellis is now back at the gym and will start competing in CrossFit - I don't think he would be doing this without your help."

Ian, Dad to Ellis

Where we work

We are based at The Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton and also see children at The Portland hospital, London and 4 Harley Street, London. We offer a range of clinics, so can see your child at a time that is convenient for you.

The Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital


Eastern Road


Brighton


BN2 5BE

The Portland Hospital


2nd floor, 215 Great Portland Street


London


W1W 5AH

4 Harley Street


London


W1G 9PB