In the modern world, we are surrounded by new sources of technology and entertainment. Today, we enjoy various activities our ancestors could have never even dreamed of! Unfortunately, our bodies are not designed to complete the repetitive motions that gaming and texting require. If you are a gamer or avid typer, you should be aware of a condition colloquially known as Gamer’s Thumb or Texting Thumb. While modern technologies are mostly harmless, they have the unfortunate side effect of causing our thumbs to overwork, resulting in a “smartphone thumb.” Keep reading to learn more about this painful condition and how to prevent it from happening to you!
What is the Gamer’s Thumb?
The technical name for Gamer’s Thumb or Texting Thumb is De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, but it is more commonly known as trigger finger, Nintendo Thumb, PlayStation Thumb, and Nintendonitis. This injury is caused by repetitive movements of the thumb, resulting in irritated and inflamed tendons in the extensor pollicis brevis and abductor pollicis longus muscles. These muscles are responsible for pulling the thumb away from the hand and palm. When the sheath tendons become inflamed, they swell and begin to fill the narrow tunnel through which they run, causing increased friction and decreased range of thumb movement.
In console gaming, the trigger finger is usually due to the repetitive motion of thumb stick movements. While PC gamers can develop the condition, it is most prevalent in console gamers. More recently, the condition has also been linked to text messaging or typing on mobile devices, receiving the name ‘Texting Thumb.’
What are the Gamer’s Thumb Symptoms?
The first and foremost symptom of a Gamer’s Thumb or Texting Thumb is pain on the thumb side of your forearm and wrist. You may also experience grip weakness caused by the aforementioned pain.
General symptoms include:
- Pain or swelling at the base of the thumb
- Difficulty grasping or pinching
- Pain when turning or flexing the wrist
- Pain when making a fist
You may experience pain in your thumb due to inflammation when extending or abducting it and when bending your wrist toward the pinky side of your hand. Trigger thumb is a similar condition to Gamer’s Thumb that causes your finger to become stuck in a bent position and snap straight. Occurring due to inflammation of the tendons, trigger thumb, Gamer’s Thumb, carpal tunnel, and Texting Thumb all share similar symptoms and causes.
How Long Does a Gamer’s Thumb Last?
Gamer’s Thumb or Texting Thumb inflammation can have permanent effects if not dealt with properly or quickly. However, in most mild cases, the symptoms only last four to five hours after gaming or typing. If you are experiencing these mild symptoms, it is important you get it checked out before it worsens and becomes lasting. If your condition is more severe, your recovery may take four to six weeks.
How is Gamer’s Thumb Treated Conservatively?
If you believe you are suffering from Gamer’s Thumb or Texting Thumb, there are a few different exercises and methods to treat your symptoms and reduce inflammation conservatively. You can visit this video link explanation for a few different exercises, and below, you have an explanation of four exercises used to prevent and treat Gamer’s Thumb. If you take time to stretch after physical activity, then you can increase your range of motion and release chronic muscle tension.
You can also take anti-inflammatory medication to relieve pain caused by Gamer’s Thumb or Texter’s Thumb. However, it is highly recommended that you take the time to stretch and exercise your thumb properly before resorting to medication.
Ulnar deviation is a type of exercise used to improve a Gamer’s Thumb through Resistance Tubing. To complete this exercise:
- Sit on a chair with feet hip distance apart and hold one end of the tubing in your right hand.
- With your palm facing the floor, lean forward so your right elbow rests on your right thigh and your forearm drops between your knees.
- Take your left foot and step on the other end of the tubing.
- Now, take your right hand and slowly bend your wrist up and away from your left knee.
- If done correctly, you should feel a stretch at the back and inside of your hand.
- Repeat these steps on your right hand ten times before switching to your left hand.
If you want to condition your hand for those long gaming sessions, try radial deviation strengthening:
- Start the exercise by extending your arm in front of your body.
- Hold a weight with your palm facing inward.
- If you need some extra support, you can balance your forearm on a table and hang your wrist over the edge.
- Keep your forearm steady and focus on only moving the wrist.
- Begin bending your wrist toward the ceiling to feel the stretch at the base of the thumb.
- Gently lower your wrist to the starting position and repeat for two sets of ten repetitions each.
The eccentric wrist extension is another exercise ideal for preventing Gamer’s Thumb:
- Begin by holding a weight with your palm facing downward.
- Next, curl your wrist toward the ceiling and then uncurl your wrist toward the floor.
- Repeat this motion for three sets of 15 repetitions each.
If you suffer from wrist pain due to gaming, wrist flexion is the ideal exercise for stretching and strengthening your wrist. To complete this exercise, you will use a moderately heavy weight so that it is possible to finish multiple repetitions and build endurance:
- First, hold the weight with your palm up and then curl your wrist toward the ceiling.
- Slowly uncurl the wrist and bring it down toward the ground. Be sure to uncurl your fingers to target deeper forearm muscles at the end of the exercise.
- Repeat the exercise for three sets of 15 repetitions each.
While a thumb or hand brace may work for short-term pain relief, exercise should be the primary method to keep your hand healthy. You can ease the pain of Gamer’s Thumb or Texting Thumb by avoiding further tendon aggravation and inflammation. A thumb brace can be worn when you are not playing games to completely immobilize the thumb. You can likewise use Kinesiology Tape to support muscle and thumb joints without fully immobilizing your range of motion.
How to Prevent Gamer’s Thumb Pain
There are three main ways to prevent pain from Gamer’s Thumb or Texting Thumb. While it is difficult for most gamers and texters, spending less time playing and texting is the best way to decrease your risk of developing this injury. By reducing your gaming or texting session by one extra hour, you can save yourself from the pain of a life-long texter’s thumb affliction.
Give Your Thumbs a Bit of Rest
The best way to prevent an injury is to give your thumbs some time to rest through frequent breaks. Some gamers can play for hours without taking a break, while some smartphone users can spend hours texting. However, all that gaming and smartphone use puts a lot of unnecessary strain on your thumbs.
If more conservative treatments and preventions have failed, you may consider taking corticosteroid injections to eliminate chronic inflammation. Steroid injections are widely used and can help prevent stenosing tenosynovitis and the need for surgery. A steroid injection is considered minimally invasive, as it delivers the medication by puncturing the skin and tendon sheath.
If you cannot find relief for your gamers or texter’s thumb symptoms or your condition worsens, you may need to schedule a physical exam and speak with a hand surgeon about your options. By cutting the sheath around the thumb tendons and making more room, your surgeon can help relieve symptoms of Gamer’s Thumb and Texting Thumb.
Dr. Doerr is the Best Chiropractor in New Jersey for Treating Gamer’s Thumb Syndrome!
At Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, our chiropractic team, under the leadership of Dr. Gregory Doerr, adheres to the highest and most professional medical standards to provide superior chiropractic help. Our mission is to provide unparalleled patient care in a comfortable, healing atmosphere.
Access our contact form or call us at (201) 945-4075 to learn more about our chiropractic care services! Our offices at 532 Anderson Avenue, Cliffside Park, NJ 07010, and 62 Summit Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601, are ready to welcome you as we proudly serve the areas of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, PA, and Baltimore, MD. Also, feel free to access our blog, Facebook, and Instagram pages for more information on chiropractic adjustments!
- EsportsHealthcare. “Gamer’s Thumb: Prevention and Relief for Console Gamers.” Esports Healthcare, esportshealthcare.com/gamers-thumb-de-quervain/. Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.
- “Esports Injuries: How to Get Pain Relief from Gamer’s Thumb.” Performance Health, www.performancehealth.com/articles/esports-injuries-how-to-get-pain-relief-from-gamers-thumb. Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.