Managing Trigger Thumb

Trigger thumb is a condition wherein your thumb gets temporarily locked in a bent position. It can also happen to your others fingers, a condition known as a trigger finger. Having a trigger thumb can be quite painful as the tendon in your thumb becomes stiff and inflamed. It can also affect and limit your daily activities that require hand use.

What causes trigger thumb?

Trigger thumb usually occurs due to repetitive thumb movements. Among the common causes of this condition are the following:


  • Job-related tasks. If you’re an athlete, an office worker, a manual laborer, an industrial worker, a farmer, a musician, or a hobbyist, you are prone to develop this condition since most of your day-to-day activities involve the use of your hands.

  • Forceful gripping. Aside from repetitive hand use, trigger thumb can also develop when you forcefully grip an object resulting in too much strain on the tendons.

  • Age. Age can also be a factor in developing trigger thumb. If you’re between 40 to 60 years old, you’re at a higher risk of developing this condition.

  • Pre-existing medical conditions. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or diabetes, you are at risk of developing trigger thumb.

Signs and symptoms of trigger thumb

  • Popping or snapping sensation when you try to move your thumb

  • Stiffness of the thumb, especially in the morning

  • The thumb is temporarily locked in a bent position

  • Pain near the base of the thumb

  • Swelling of the palm

  • Inability to straighten the thumb

How to treat a trigger thumb

Aside from taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce the swelling, trigger thumb can also be treated at home by doing the following home remedies.

Rest the affected thumb

Resting is one of the quickest ways to recover from a trigger thumb. As much as possible, avoid doing activities involving your injured thumb to reduce the stress and strain in the inflamed tendon. Resting can also facilitate the healing process. Use your good hand to do the holding, gripping, and lifting. If you cannot manage to do your daily tasks by yourself, don’t be afraid to ask help from your family members or friends.

Wear a thumb splint

Your doctor may recommend you to use a breathable thumb brace or a thumb splint to boost the healing process of your trigger thumb. Wearing a thumb splint can maintain your finger in a neutral, resting position. Once your thumb has already straightened out, you can also use a splint to prevent it from being locked again in a bent position.


Your doctor might advise you to wear a thumb splint for several weeks but you may also remove it from time to time and stretch your thumb and fingers to promote better blood circulation, prevent numbness, and improve flexibility.

Apply heat and cold therapy

To help ease the pain in your thumb, you can alternately apply heat and cold therapy. Heat therapy helps to improve blood circulation and promote healing. It can also relieve the stiffness of your thumb. On the other hand, cold therapy helps to numb the pain and reduce swelling.


For heat and cold therapy, you may use heat and ice packs. If you don’t have any of these, you can also dip your hand in a basin filled with warm or cold water as an alternative. Apply the heat therapy for about 10 to 15 minutes followed by the cold therapy.

Exercise your thumb and fingers

To reduce the stiffness of your thumb and fingers, do simple hand exercises. Lay your palm flat on a table then lift your thumb and fingers one by one for 2 to 3 seconds each. Repeat for 4 to 5 sets. You can also increase the flexibility of your thumb and fingers by using a squeeze ball. Squeeze the ball and hold the squeeze for about 5 seconds followed by a 5-second rest. Repeat this for 5 to 10 times.


Having a trigger thumb is not a serious condition but it can negatively affect your daily routine as well as your career. If the pain and swelling persist despite applying these home remedies, your doctor might need to fix your trigger thumb surgically in a minor operation.

By: Joe Fleming

Co-Founder, Vive Health

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