Trigger Thumb

What is trigger thumb?

Every joint is moved by a tendon. Tendons are like strings that connect muscle to bone, and they are wrapped in their own protective tunnel, called a tendon sheath. When the thumb joint bends, the tendon glides through the tendon sheath. But with trigger thumb, there is a size mismatch between the tendon and the tendon sheath as the child grows, so the tendon can’t glide smoothly through the tunnel and can get stuck. This makes it very difficult or impossible for your child to fully extend his or her thumb.

You may first notice that your child can extend his or her thumb, but it hurts and causes swelling, or you may hear a clicking sound. As the condition progresses, your child’s thumb will remain bent.

How is trigger thumb diagnosed?

Your child’s doctor can diagnose trigger thumb by asking about your child’s medical history and conducting a physical exam.

How is trigger thumb treated?

Depending on the severity of the condition and the child’s age, sometimes doctors will wait and see if the condition will improve on its own. Splinting is also an option for young children with trigger thumb. As children get older, the chances of trigger thumb going away on its own decrease, and surgery is recommended. Surgery, called trigger thumb release, involves opening the tendon sheath to allow the tendon to move normally. After surgery, your child will wear a bandage for a few weeks to protect the skin while it heals.