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Joints locking up in hands: Joints locking up in fingers and toes: Symptoms and more

Joints locking up in fingers and toes: Symptoms and more

Some conditions cause the finger or toe joint tissue to thicken, which makes movement difficult. This, in turn, may affect how the joint bends and may cause the finger to feel like it is locking up.

Tendons surrounding the finger and toe joints control the movement of the digits. A sheath, called the synovial membrane, encloses the tendons. If the synovial membrane becomes inflamed, it can affect the tendon’s movement. The tendon may become stuck on the sheath and cause a finger or toe joint to lock in place.

This article discusses what finger and toe joint locking is, other associated symptoms, causes, and treatments alongside lifestyle measures that may help prevent or manage it.

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People also refer to locking or catching of the joints in the digits as stenosing tenosynovitis. When this occurs in the finger joints, people also call it “trigger finger,” but it can affect any finger joints.

Tendons are cord-like structures that attach the muscles to bones. When a specific muscle contracts, the flexor tendons pull on the bones of the fingers or toes, which causes them to bend.

Flexor tendons run from the forearm to the fingers’ ends across the palm. Each flexor tendon that leads to a finger or toe is encased in its structure, called a sheath. The sheaths attach to the finger and toe bones.

The bands of tissue — a pulley — sit along the sheaths, which hold the tendons near the bones as they flex and stretch.

In people with stenosing tenosynovitis, the pulley thickens, which makes it harder for the tendon to move, which in turn causes difficulty bending the joint of the finger or toe. The tendon may eventually become inflamed and develop nodules on its surface. When this happens, the bumps can catch on the pulley and cause a locking sensation.

Symptoms of stenosing tenosynovitis may occur after someone uses their hand for repetitive activities or may develop gradually due to other causes. Symptoms include:

  • a digit, usually a finger, becoming locked in a bent position
  • a popping or catching feeling when bending the digit
  • pain when straightening or bending the digit joint
  • a sensitive or painful lump at the base of the digit
  • stiffness in the joint, especially upon waking, which may ease throughout the day

Doctors do not know the exact causes of finger and toe joint locking, but various risk factors can increase a person’s chances of developing the condition. Associated conditions include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): An autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the joints, which causes inflammation in the fingers and toes.
  • Gout: Crystals build up in the joints and affect their movement. Gout typically affects the big toe.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: This occurs when the median nerve in the hand is compressed and can cause pain, numbness, and tingling.
  • Issues affecting the thyroid: Conditions such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can affect the structure and function of the muscles and joints.
  • Amyloidosis: This occurs when specific proteins in the body build up into deposits in the tissues and organs. This protein buildup could cause pain in the joints. 2021 research shows that people with amyloidosis commonly report trigger fingers. Further research must determine how the diagnostic process can help reduce the risk.
  • Diabetes: This chronic condition affects how the body breaks down glucose from food and turns it into energy. Trigger finger is a possible complication that may affect people with diabetes, and medical professionals will consider these factors during diagnosis.
  • Injury or trauma: For example, dislocation, when a bone slips out of its joint.
  • Developmental: A child’s flexor tendon and sheath may not match in size, referred to as a pediatric trigger finger.

Infective tenosynovitis

Certain pathogens may result in infective tenosynovitis due to injury or the spread of infection. A 2022 article states that 2.5–9.4% of people will develop infectious tenosynovitis.

A person should consult a doctor if they suspect infection to receive a prompt diagnosis and determine the type of organism and treatment.

Common organisms include Staphylococcus aureus in 40–75% of cases and MRSA in 29% of cases.

Infectious tenosynovitis treatment varies based on the type of organism. Doctors will usually prescribe a course of antibiotics with its duration depending on the severity of the infection.

For early signs of infections, other possible treatments include sheath irrigation — cleaning the tendon sheath — and catheter-directed therapy. Debridement may be an option for people with late stages of infection, where doctors remove debris from an infected area.

Treatment for joint locking in the finger or toe depends on the cause and severity of the condition. It may include:

  • resting the joints and avoiding activities that could worsen the condition
  • performing gentle stretching exercises to help with stiffness and improve range of motion
  • taking over-the-counter (OTC) medication to help with pain and inflammation, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • wearing a splint, especially while sleeping
  • having a corticosteroid injection, which can reduce inflammation
  • undergoing surgery, in some cases, to release the affected pulley and allow the tendon to glide more easily, which should stop the locking sensation in the digit

Lifestyle changes

A person may develop joint locking in the digits from repetitive activities. Avoiding or modifying repetitive activities — especially gripping or pinching hand motions — could help prevent locked joints.

Lifestyle measures to manage associated conditions may help avoid or improve joint locking. These may include following a balanced diet and exercising regularly.

Learn more about remedies for trigger finger.

Joints in the digits may lock when the membrane surrounding the tendons — the synovial sheath — becomes inflamed. This inflammation can cause difficulty bending or straightening the joint and cause a catching or locking sensation, which can be painful.

Experts do not know the exact causes of joints in the fingers and toes locking, but they associate joint locking with several other conditions. These include RA, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes, and injuries such as dislocation.

People can treat joint locking in the digits with OTC medication, gentle stretching, rest, or splinting. In more severe cases, a doctor may need to administer a steroid injection, or a person may require surgery.

Why Are My Fingers Locking?

A common complaint from patients in the hand therapy clinic is that their fingers are “locking.” Locking in the fingers is most commonly associated with a condition called trigger finger, which occurs when there is inflammation around the tendons that bend the fingers.

To bend our fingers or thumbs, we use tendons connected to muscles located in the forearm. These tendons must travel through a series of pulleys, or tunnels, that hold the tendons close to the bone. The entrance to the first pulley is often a site of inflammation. If there is inflammation in the area, the tendon does not glide easily and can get stuck, causing the finger to lock in a bent position.

Patients often report pain, clicking, and popping in the affected finger. As people continue to bend their fingers, the inflammation and triggering increases. Over time, the finger becomes stiff or more difficult to move, and pain may continue to increase.

Amanda Walsh, MD

In this Q&A, Amanda Walsh, MD a fellowship trained hand and upper extremity surgeon and Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, explains what you can do about this condition.

How can I treat finger locking?

The best way to prevent worsening of the symptoms of trigger finger is to stop the cycle of inflammation. Try the following to decrease triggering:

  • Avoid repetitive and sustained gripping tasks, such as playing golf, hitting balls in the batting cages or gardening with tools.
  • Maintain motion of the fingers by gentle flexion and extension, which can help prevent stiffness.

What if my symptoms persist?

If symptoms persist for more than one month, seek medical attention. A hand surgeon can help diagnose a trigger finger and provide treatment, which may include corticosteroid injection and/or an occupational therapy referral. If these treatments do not work, some people need to undergo surgery for this problem.

How do corticosteroid injections help?

A corticosteroid injection delivers a strong anti-inflammatory to the area of inflammation in the hand. In the majority of patients, corticosteroid injection can provide permanent relief of symptoms after just one injection.

How does occupational therapy help?

Occupational therapy can be very beneficial for decreasing the pain and stiffness associated with trigger fingers. Patients are often taught about modifying daily tasks to decrease triggering, such as avoiding gripping tasks and performing gripping tasks in a manner that avoids using the inflamed tendons. Therapists also may teach patients range-of-motion exercises to decrease the stiffness and enable the patient to bend and straighten the finger fully.

To make an appointment to see one of our hand specialists, call 877-636-7846 or email [email protected].

Arthritis of the joints of the hands, feet and fingers: types, symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention

Co-author, editor and medical expert – Anna Alexandrovna Petrashevich.

Editor and medical expert – Harutyunyan Mariam Harutyunovna

Views: 284 278

Last update date: 06/27/2023

Average reading time: 4 minutes


Causes of Arthritis
Arthritis Pain Treatment
Arthritis Prevention
Arthritis Pain Educational Video

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Diseases of the joints are widespread in society, they are most often accompanied by acute or constant aching pain that is difficult to relieve. Arthritis is an inflammatory disease of the joints. To date, 150 varieties of arthritis are known. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every tenth person suffers from one or another arthritic disease. Diseases can progress over the years, leading to thinning and deformation of the articular tissues, a significant decrease in the quality of life of the patient. Joint pain in arthritis is the main symptom that is characteristic of all forms of the disease. It is complemented by swelling, hyperemia, limitation of mobility and morning stiffness 1 .

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Causes of arthritis (knee, shoulder and fingers)

There are three main groups of arthritis: independent forms of arthritis, traumatic arthritis and arthritis associated with other diseases 2 . Arthritis can develop slowly and gradually (chronic forms) or suddenly and abruptly (acute forms) 2 . The exact causes of the onset of an independent disease of arthritis can be difficult to establish.

The cause of inflammation in the joint may be local or general infection, trauma, allergies, autoimmune disorders, metabolic disorders, hormonal disorders, etc. 1.10 . However, the cause of some severe inflammatory joint diseases is still not well understood. Factors contributing to the development of arthritis are hypothermia, physical overload of the joint, hereditary predisposition 3 .

Each type of arthritis has its own cause, which should be addressed by the main treatment. Symptoms of arthritis can also vary depending on the form of the disease and its type, but joint pain is an inevitable companion of any arthritis. Arthritis is often accompanied by fever, swelling and redness in the joint area, impaired motor function of the joint, weakness and weight loss, morning stiffness 1 . As the disease progresses, the pain becomes more intense and exhausts the patient. At the same time, pain in arthritis is spontaneous, most intense in the second half of the night and in the morning, decreases after movement 9 .

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Arthritis pain treatment

Arthritis treatment is lengthy, takes more than one month and requires compliance with all medical prescriptions. The sooner you contact a competent specialist, the higher the likelihood of recovery or a significant reduction in relapses. In the acute period, when the pain is severe, it is necessary to exclude direct loads on the joints of the arms and legs. But you can, with the permission of a doctor, go swimming, light warm-up, so as not to lose shape and skills 4 .

To get rid of joint pain, your doctor may recommend taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as part of a complex treatment for arthritis 5 . After an acute period of the disease and a decrease in signs of inflammation, physiotherapy is used: UV radiation, electrophoresis, massage, exercise therapy 6 .

Minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery or arthroplasty is recommended if conservative therapy fails 7 .

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Arthritis prevention

Arthritis prevention is about avoiding and eliminating all possible provoking factors. A healthy lifestyle, weight control, a balanced diet, avoidance of excessive alcohol consumption and regular preventive examinations by a doctor will significantly reduce the likelihood of developing arthritis, and following all the doctor’s recommendations in the early stages of the development of diseases will significantly increase the likelihood of recovery or significantly reduce the likelihood of relapses 8 .

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The information in this article is for reference only and does not replace professional medical advice. For diagnosis and treatment, contact a qualified specialist.

Educational video “Pain in arthritis and arthrosis”


  1. Mazurov V. I., Lila A. M., Povzun A. S. Differential diagnosis in acute articular syndrome (lecture) // Bulletin of the North-Western State Medical University. II Mechnikov. – 2012. – T. 4. – No. 3.
  2. Mesnikova IL Ambulatory aspects of management of patients with articular syndrome. – 2007.
  3. Alekseeva LI, Taskina EA, Kashevarova NG Osteoarthritis: epidemiology, classification, risk factors and progression, clinic, diagnostics, treatment //Modern rheumatology. – 2019. – T. 13. – No. 2.
  4. Myatyga E. N., Myatyga D. S., Goncharuk N. V. Therapeutic physical culture in rheumatoid arthritis at the stationary stage // Slobozhansky scientific and sports bulletin. – 2012. – no. 2. – S. 128-131.
  5. Povzun AS, Lila AM, Mazurov VI Principles of treatment for acute articular syndrome //Bulletin of the North-Western State Medical University. II Mechnikov. – 2013. – T. 5. – No. 1.
  6. Radaikina OG et al. EFFICIENCY OF NON-DRUG TREATMENT OF PATIENTS WITH DISEASES OF THE JOINTS //Modern problems of science and education. – 2020. – no. 3. – S. 137-137.
  7. Kolomatsky VV et al. endoprosthetics of metacarpophalangeal joints in patients with rheumatoid arthritis // Scientific and practical rheumatology. – 2006. – no. 4.
  8. Strakhov MA et al. Features of the treatment and prevention of osteoarthritis at a young age //BC. – 2016. – T. 24. – No. 8. – S. 498-504.
  9. Filonenko S. P., Yakushin S. S. Pain in the joints: dif. diagnostics. – GEOTAR-Media, 2010.
  10. Zaikov SV, Dmitrieva EN Drug allergy and its immunocomplex manifestations //News of Medicine and Pharmacy. – 2012. – no. 435. – S. 58-65.

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Ligamentitis. Full description: causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment

Ligamentitis is a disease of the tendons responsible for finger flexion. In the initial stage of the disease, the fingers are fully extended, but this action is accompanied by a clicking sound. As the disease progresses, it becomes difficult for a person to perform such a simple action. Stenosing ligamentitis blocks the joints, causing the fingers to be half-flexed all the time.


Stenosing ligamentitis is of two types.

Nutt’s disease is also known as “trigger finger syndrome”. The characteristic sound results from the enlargement of the annular digital ligament.

De Querwin’s disease has a second name – “maternal wrist”. With this disease, the ligaments of the thumb are affected as a result of an increased load on it or a hormonal failure. Pathology manifests itself as severe pain in the thumb and creaking sounds at the time of movement. There is tension in the tendon, which is damaged by the disease.

The pathology is also classified according to the degree of damage to the tendons, in total there are four stages.

Causes of occurrence

Factors provoking the development of ligamentitis may be different. The disease is often caused by:

  • injuries;
  • bad heredity;
  • inflammatory diseases of the joints;
  • excessive stress on the hands;
  • hormonal disruptions, diabetes mellitus.

This disease is often diagnosed in people involved in music, sports, seamstresses, plasterers. Representatives of professions whose work involves a constant load of the same type on the hands.

Symptoms and signs of ligamentitis

The main symptom of ligamentitis is difficulty in flexion and extension of the fingers. At the moment of their movement, clicking sounds occur. Joints often swell. Left untreated, a person can completely lose the ability to move their fingers.

At the first stage of the disease, the joint sometimes clicks, pain sensations appear periodically.

On the second – for flexion and extension of the fingers you have to make an effort, the pain occurs more often.

On the third or fourth, the diseased finger loses the ability to bend and unbend, the hands lose their functionality.

Which doctor treats

Ligamentitis is treated by a hand surgeon (if surgery is required) or an orthopedist.

Important! The decision on whether the treatment will be conservative or surgical is made based on the stage of the disease.

Diagnostic methods

When a patient first seeks medical help, the doctor examines the affected limbs and conducts tests to determine the type of disease and its stage. If necessary, additional examinations are prescribed:

  1. Ultrasound.
  2. MRI.
  3. CT.
Methods of treatment

In a conservative way, ligamentitis is treated on an outpatient basis. But therapy must be carried out under the supervision of a physician. It involves physiotherapy, massage, gymnastics for the hands. People suffering from this disease are also prescribed compresses, rubbing ointments with gels.

Hydrocortisone injections into problem joints help well in such cases. At night, a special fixing bandage is applied.

If conservative treatment fails, surgery is indicated. Surgical intervention relieves pain in the joint, completely eliminates pinching, and makes it possible to quickly restore the hands affected by the disease.

The operation is carried out in a hospital in a medical center, it is considered simple. Before this, it is necessary to take tests, conduct a test for the possible presence of an allergy to drugs, especially to anesthesia.


The results of treatment largely depend on the stage of the disease at which it was started. The earlier the therapy starts, the higher the chances of restoring full mobility to the fingers.

Rehabilitation and lifestyle restoration

At the stage of rehabilitation, it is important to follow all medical recommendations, especially if an operation has been performed.