VMN, a university student in Giang Vo ward, Dong Da district, who was diagnosed with trigger finger for making repeated finger and thumb movements, usually spent five hours a night using her smartphone for checking Facebook and chatting with her friends.
“I did not expect the habit to cause so much pain,” she said. “It hurt when I tried to extend my fingers. I felt terrible as I could no longer control my hand,” she added.
And N is not the only case. VTP, 28, a clothing store owner in District 1, HCM City, told Tuoi tre (Youth) newspaper that her fingers suddenly went numb and felt painful when grasping an object.
“I use a smartphone every day with my fingers wiping its touchscreen for hours to check mail, surf webs and send messages. It was a surprise when my doctor announced that I suffered trigger finger,” she said.
According to doctor Nguyen Van Phu from Vietnam Sports Hospital, trigger-finger or finger-flexor-tendinitis happens when overuse or injury puts strain on the tendons. It is more commonly found in women than men and occurs most often in people who are in their 40s.
Older people are also at high risk of developing trigger finger since their tendons are losing elasticity.
However, nowadays, young people, especially those whose work or hobbies require repetitive gripping actions, may also experience the ailment.
Phan Vuong Huy Dong, vice head of HCM City Sports Medicine Association, said that a tendon, in its normal condition, glided smoothly through a sheath covering it thanks to a lubricating membrane surrounding the joint. When a tendon sheath becomes inflamed, the inflammation obstructs a finger’s movement, causing the digit to drag through the sheath.
Nguyen Xuan Anh, head of Plastic Surgery and Hand Surgery Department at Sai Gon ITO Hospital, said that people with trigger finger would experience strong pain, particularly in the morning. Therefore, he made the following recommendations.
When one first experiences finger stiffness with pains in the hands and finger joints, soak the hands in warm water every morning and move them gently during breaks.
Anti-inflammatory medication can also help if prescribed by a doctor.
If the symptoms worsen, doctor may offer Cortisol injections or minor surgery to cut open an inflamed tendon sheath.
However, Nguyen Duc Thanh from the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation at HCM City University Medical Centre, warned that surgery could possibly cause complications, such as finger numbness or inability to keep a firm hold.
Therefore, prevention is better than cure. Doctors suggest not to overuse smartphones, avoid activities requiring repetitive gripping and wear anti-vibration work gloves when operating vibrating hand-held machinery.
Frequent stretching exercises during break time, moreover, can also alleviate symptoms.
According to statista.com, the number of smartphone users in Vietnam is expected to reach 28.77 million this year, accounting for 28.5 percent of its population.