Shopping can trigger pain


Leading physician Vichai Vijitpornkul, from Lerdsin Hospital, demonstrates surgery on a patient suffering from trigger finger. — KOSOL NAKACHOL

Little-known ailment affects mostly women


A real threat to women who love shopping is not the high prices of the goods they buy _ it is the weight of what's inside the plastic shopping bags they take home.

Shopping addicts are among those at risk of developing a little-known condition known as "trigger finger", which often occurs in women, said Lerdsin Hospital's leading physician, Vichai Vijitpornkul.

The name is taken from the fact that the finger "locks" in place, bent as if to pull the trigger of a gun.

Carrying heavy weights or having fingers fixed in one position for a long time can cause the condition.

Shoppers who usually carry heavy bags on one or two fingers, housewives who grasp utensils when cooking or hold brooms for a long time while cleaning, and even office workers who hold their pens tightly in their hands every day are all prone to the painful condition, Dr Vichai said.

Women suffer from it more than men due to their lifestyles. Statistically, around 80% of patients are women while 20% are men, he said.

"The condition could occur in anyone but women, especially those aged over 45, are more at risk because their activities require the use of fingers in a repetitive manner," said Dr Vichai.

He said trigger finger is caused by a disorder in the sheath covering tendons that connect the muscles of the forearm with the bones of the fingers.

Certain daily activities can cause the sheath to expand and this blocks the movement of the tendons.

To solve the problem, Dr Vichai said, patients only need surgery on their fingers.

Doctors cut through the base of the fingers until they find the sheath inside. Cutting the sheath along its length will cure the problem.

The surgery causes a wide wound and patients usually need one month to recover. To make the operation easier, Dr Vichai uses a smaller surgical knife called a "blade probe", adapted from a dentist's probe. The new tool causes only a small wound and patients need only seven days to recover from the operation.

However, he said, the technique is not yet well known in Thailand and only a few doctors know it. Many patients had to be put on a waiting list at Lerdsin Hospital to have the surgery using this technique.

It is best to take steps to avoid developing trigger finger, Dr Vichai said. He advised shoppers to use shopping trolleys or paper bags to carry goods. If conventional plastic bags were still needed, shoppers should wear gloves or use thick cloth to protect their fingers.

Men should also be aware of the condition, especially those who play golf or often type.

"I never hold my wife's hand tightly like the time we first met," said a male patient who suffers from trigger finger as a result of typing for several hours a day.