Doctors warn of ‘trigger finger’ danger from overusing cellphones, computers

By Hsieh Chia-chun and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sun, Jan 18, 2015 - Page 3

Doctors of traditional Chinese medicine warn that the portability of computers and smartphones in contemporary society are the direct cause of a condition colloquially known as “trigger finger” that used to occur in people with diabetes or those in vocations requiring them to use their fingers a great deal.

According to Taipei City Hospital Heping branch department of Chinese Medicine doctor Chou Wen-cheng (周文成), the condition is the result of chronic inflammation of the synovial sheath for flexor tendons and has been observed to affect the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers.

The condition got its name due to the action of a locked finger suddenly “popping” back into place as if releasing a trigger on a gun. Severe cases can result in the affected finger being “locked” in position unless it is relieved by an outside force.

The majority of patients traditionally complaining of such symptoms were between 40 and 50 years old and had a history of diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or immune system problems, or were athletes, musicians, cooks or tailors. However, the condition is now becoming prevalent among the younger generation due to constant use of fingers to type on keyboards or using their cell phones, Chou said.

The simplest way of “curing” the condition is to cut down on the amount of work hands perform to reduce inflammation, Chou said, suggesting that people with early or light symptoms soak their hands in hot water or apply a heat pad on the back of their hands.

Stretching finger tendons by pulling them toward the back of the hand and holding them in place for 20 seconds would also help alleviate the condition, Chou said.

If none of the above remedies work, injections of corticosteroids into the tendon sheath might be necessary, while more severe cases might require surgery, Chu said.

Chinese traditional medicine also offers acupuncture as a method to relieve the condition and has a high success rate — more than 90 percent — while being minimally invasive and leaving behind only a pinprick wound, Chou said.