When your `texting thumb` leaves you with a big thumbs-down!


Who hasn`t heard about the dangers of texting while driving, or the impact too much texting can put on the neck with increased incidence of muscle strain, pinched nerves and/or herniated discs. But there’s another less-obvious, yet very common, risk to overusing your smart phone that you may not be aware of: Texting Thumb (known medically as De Quervain`s Tenosynovitis).

Nowadays generation is `fanatically` addicted to message texting, and this could involve the excessive use of the thumb. On the long run, the over use of thumb predisposes the users to a painful thumb. Repetitive thumb movements lead to repetitive strain injury which in turn causes inflammation and swelling of tendons.

As a matter of fact, excessive texting is one of the notorious causes of De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, However, by no means it`s a modern ailment; it’s also been named “washerwoman’s sprain” and “mom`s thumb,” which is clear indication that this problem has been around for quite some time.


Just like other types of inflammatory Tenosynovitis, the exact cause of de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is not known, but it is globally believed that chronic overuse and activities demanding repetitive wrist motion play a decisive role. It`s more common between 30 – 50 years of age, among women (especially pregnant ones), people with Rheumatoid arthritis, and those who participate in hobbies that necessitate repetitive hand and/or thumb movements, such as over-texting on mobile phones, video gaming, gardening and tennis playing or certain work tasks such as drilling. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, also appear to increase the risk of developing this painful problem.


Two of the main tendons to the thumb pass through a tunnel located on the thumb side of the wrist. Tendons are rope-like structures that attach muscles to bones and are covered with a thin soft-tissue layer, called `synovium` which allows the smooth gliding movement of these tendons within a fibrous tunnel known as the `sheath`. Any thickening of the sheath, inflammation of the synovium or swelling of the tendons may lead to increased friction and pain with certain thumb and wrist movements.


The main complaint for people suffering from De Quervain`s Tenosynovitis is pain, typically felt over the thumb side of the wrist and appears either gradually or suddenly. Pain is felt in the wrist and may shoot up the forearm. The pain is usually worse when the hand and thumb are in use, and sometimes there is a `catching` or `snapping` sensation on moving the thumb. In association, a swelling may be seen over the thumb side of the wrist which, together with the pain, can make trials of moving the wrist and/or thumb a real agony.


Conservative treatment options usually help


If you’re experiencing symptoms suggestive of De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, it’s not a wise idea to just bear the pain and keep on going with the forlorn hope that it will just go away. Usually, the sad opposite happens; your symptoms get worse if left untreated.


Your orthopedic surgeon with especial hand & wrist expertise will inquire about your health status and details in relation to your complaint, then clinically examine your hand and wrist to determine what causes the pain and the nature of your symptoms. Based on this, your trusted doctor will be able to determine the proper diagnosis.


The good news is that if De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is indeed what you`re suffering from, conservative treatment, as a first line of treatment, is usually effective. It may include oral anti-inflammatory medications and a local corticosteroid injection to help reduce the inflammation. A splint could also be helpful in temporarily immobilizing your wrist and thumb to allow it to rest. Surgical intervention is usually reserved for people whose symptoms are severe or do not improve with conservative treatment, with negative impact on quality of life. And even if this is the case, the procedure is usually a straight-forward one and done on a day-care basis with home sweet home after few hours.


Regardless of the treatment, normal use of the hand usually can be resumed once comfort and strength have returned. Your orthopedic surgeon can advise you on the best treatment options for achieving optimum health status.


Dr. Kutaiba Salman,

Orthopedic Surgeon

Hand & Wrist Expert


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