We all know that excessive cell phone and tablet use can lead to issues with distracted driving-related car crashes, inability to get good quality sleep, and slumping posture. We live in a digital world, and not a day goes by where most of us aren’t buried in some sort of device, whether it’s for work or to try and shut our brains off from work at the end of the day. But did you know all of that texting, swiping, scrolling and typing can contribute to pain in your thumb and wrist area, causing a condition called ‘text thumb’? Yes – it’s a real thing! In this article, we will discuss what ‘text thumb’ is, how it’s caused, and some of the best text thumb exercises to help relieve the symptoms.

 

What is Text Thumb?

Using a smartphone or tablet requires repetitious hand, thumb, and wrist movement. We use our thumbs to text, write out emails, scroll social media, and of course, zoom in on that really cute picture of our cat. These excessive and repeated movements can cause a lot of stress on our tendons, joints, and muscles of our wrists and hands, which leads to pain and loss of functional use. There are a couple of different conditions to which ‘text thumb’ usually refers to. These are trigger thumb or DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis. These are two separate conditions, with different symptoms.

 

Trigger Thumb

Trigger thumb is characterized by ‘snapping’ or ‘locking’ sensation of the thumb when trying to flex the joint, or straighten it from a flexed position. The flexor tendons of the hand are long, cord-like structures that attach the muscles of the forearm to the bones of the hand, allowing our fingers and thumb to flex. These tendons pass through a tunnel in the wrist where bands of tissue, or “pulleys”, hold the tendons close to the bones. Often with excessive use of force, these “pulleys” can become inflamed or thickened, making it very difficult for the tendons to glide easily. This can lead to pain, a ‘catching’ sensation in the thumb, and sometimes causing the thumb to become stuck in a flexed position. In severe cases, the person may have to use their other hand to “unstick” the flexed thumb.

 

Looking For A Program That Will Help With Your Text Thumb Pain?

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Our elbow, wrist, and hand program helps you understand how the upper body works as an entire team, treating the WHOLE you, not just where your pain is. Not only can you learn how to rehab your text thumb pain, but you can also become stronger, more mobile, and most importantly, educated on how to prevent any elbow, wrist, or hand injuries in the future! Click HERE to get started with your road to health today.

 

DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis

DeQuervains synovitis is characterized by pain around the base of the thumb and into the wrist. It is most often associated with overuse and excessive repetitious movements. Symptoms include swelling at the base of the thumb, pain when making a fist or gripping an object, difficulty moving the thumb or wrist, and sometimes a “snapping” sensation at the base of the thumb during activities.

Looking for a quick self-test to screen for DeQuervain’s synovitis? This is called the Finkelstein test, and you can try it right now!

  1. Make a fist, but place your thumb inside the rest of the fingers, against your hand.
  2. Bend your wrist toward your little finger.
  3. Make sure you test both sides to compare.

If you had sharp, significant pain with that test, you may be experiencing symptoms of DeQuervains!

 

Tips To Fix Texter’s Thumb

 

How much use of my smartphone or tablet will cause pain?

The research varies on just how much time spent on devices will eventually lead to pain and dysfunctions of the hand and wrist, and it appears to be largely dependent on the habits of the user as well as the specific actions they are doing on their device. In one study by Shah looking at physical therapy students, factors that lead to pain included small spacing on the keyboard, the strain of end range of motion of the thumb while texting, the size of the mobile phone, and the way that the user holds it, and static loading of the thumb by holding the device in one position for a long period of time. This study also correlated perceptions of ‘smartphone addiction’ to increased pain and problems with the wrists and hands using the SAS (Smartphone Addiction Scale), and the CHDQ (Cornell Hand Discomfort Questionnaire). (1) Another study by Cheney et al demonstrated similar findings, specifically that phone design and user posture was determining factor that leads to pain in the wrist and hand. (2)

Basically, the longer you use your device on any given day, the more likely you will be to experience pain in your thumb and wrist!

READ: EXERCISES FOR WRIST PAIN

exercises for wrist pain the prehab guys

 

What can I do to alleviate the pain?

Yikes! So you’ve got pain around your thumb and wrist – what can you do about it?

There are many ways to modify your environment to increase ergonomics and reduce stress and strain on your wrists and hands while using devices and tablets.

  • If you work for a company, ask if you can have an ergonomics evaluation by a therapist. They can show you different ways to set up your workstation for success and reduce strain on painful areas.

 

  • Alternate between your fingers and thumb to text or type.

 

  • Get a holder for your phone or tablet that allows you to prop the device up when in use. This can reduce the time actually holding the device and cause prolonged load on the thumb.

 

  • Use the pad of your thumb to type, rather than the tip of the thumb. Often, pain is caused by bending the thumb awkwardly to type.

 

  • Try a hands-free headset or microphone and use voice texting rather than typing when possible.

 

  • Try a portable keyboard attachment.

 

  • Limit your device use to 20 minutes at a time, then take a short break before going back to work.

 

  • Reduce extra time when possible on games and entertainment that require excessive swiping and typing.

 

And of course, physical therapy and rehabilitative exercises can help to reduce wrist and hand pain during a flare-up. More on that below!

LISTEN: THE BEST POSTURE TIPS AND TRICKS

posture prehab guys text thumb exercises

 

Text Thumb Exercises

If you’ve got wrist or thumb pain from excessive device use, here are a few easy rehab exercises that might help to alleviate your symptoms!

 

THUMB CIRCLES

Sample Phase 1 of Thumb Rehab Programming

 

FLEXOR MASS SOFT TISSUE MOBILIZATION

There are a series of muscles that originate at the elbow and travel both on the front and back of the forearm, eventually inserting into different parts of the hands and fingers. Improving the mobility of the forearm if there is tightness in one or more of the muscles and tendons can help with alleviating pain down into the thumb and hand.

 

Prehab Membership The Prehab Guys

The Prehab membership is the anti-barrier solution to keeping your body healthy. Access state-of-the-art physical therapy, fitness programs, and workouts online in the comforts of your own home or gym! Taking control of your health with exercise & education from the palm of your hand has never been easier. Get access to 50+ programs, 100+ unique workouts, and 3000+ exercises to build your own workout routines. Trial it for free, and learn how to get out of pain, avoid injury, and optimize your health with [P]rehab!

 

WRIST EXTENSOR SOFT TISSUE MOBILIZATION

 

HAND TENDON GLIDE

Tendon glides are a great way to improve the extensibility as well as maintain the movement of the tendons within the hand itself. This is especially important if your hand is immobilized for a period of time, such as after surgery or if you are placed in a hand splint.

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you are experiencing pain in your wrist and hand that may be due to excessive tablet or smartphone use, don’t wait to get relief! In today’s world, we are more connected than ever by social media and our devices, whether for work, staying in touch with those we love, or entertainment. Repetitious and excessive movements with swiping and scrolling can lead to pain in our wrists and hands, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Reach out to your physical therapist, check out one of our programs or exercise library, and try a few of the strategies listed in this article to see if you can reduce strain and pain. Here’s to happy thumbs and wrists!

 

Take Control of Your Hand and Thumb Health!

elbow wrist and hand rehab program text thumb exercises prehab guys

The function of the elbow, wrist, and hand is not truly appreciated until discomfort comes along and limits its use. The shoulder girdle helps initiate movement of the arm but the lower part of the arm is the finisher! The lower arm gives us access to fine motor control and we cannot forget about the aspect that makes us human: opposable thumbs. Your brain perceives the hand to be so important that it dedicates a large chunk of the sensory area specifically to the hand. We are following the brain’s lead here and dedicating a program to regaining full lower arm function!

 

References

  1. International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health Shah PP et al. Int J Community Med Public Health. 2018 Jun;5(6):xxx-xxx http://www.ijcmph.com
  2. Sharan, D., Mohandoss, M., Ranganathan, R. et al. Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Upper Extremities Due to Extensive Usage of Hand Held Devices. Ann of Occup and Environ Med 26, 22 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40557-014-0022-3

 

About The Author

Taryn Beaumont, PT, DPT, CLT, CF-L1, CNC

[P]rehab Writer & Content Creator

taryn beumont prehab guysTaryn was born and raised in Maine and still resides there with her boyfriend and son. Taryn received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Husson University in 2010, and also carries a Bachelors in Kinesiology and Human Movement Science. She is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist, a Certified Crossfit Level 1 Trainer, and a NASM Certified Nutrition Coach. Taryn has 10+ years of experience in many different realms of PT, from the young athlete to the geriatric patient. Taryn considers herself a ‘lifelong learner’. She has special interests in oncology care and breast health, dry needling, and Crossfit training. In her free time, Taryn enjoys fitness, spending time with her family, continuing education, writing and reading, and is very excited to be a part of The [P]Rehab team to educate and empower others to take control of their own health and wellness.

 

 

 

Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.

About the author : Taryn Beaumont PT, DPT, CLT, CF-L2, CNC

2 Comments

  1. zoritoler imol April 21, 2022 at 9:37 am

    I have been reading out some of your posts and i can state pretty nice stuff. I will definitely bookmark your website.

    • Taryn Everett PT, DPT, CLT, CF-L1, CNC April 21, 2022 at 10:07 am

      Thanks, we appreciate that!

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