A common task most of us are doing much more of than ever before is texting. This is an extremely wonderful and useful communication tool, but just like any other repetitive motion our body performs, we may be placing certain tendons at risk of overuse if our constant rapid-fire texting continues without paying attention to our extremely mobile and intricate thumbs and wrists. At A2 Physical Therapy, we strive to educate and assist our patients in being proactive regarding their overall health. If texting is something you cannot imagine having to modify or discontinue, give your thumbs and wrists a little TLC today.
The precise movements of our thumbs work the tendons of two specific muscles (abductor pollicis longus and extensor pollicis brevis) which can become irritated from repeated friction and overuse, leading to inflammation and degeneration of the tendons and their sheaths (the membrane surrounding and protecting a tendon). This puts pressure on the tunnel through which they travel. At certain angles of wrist and thumb movements, such as when we’re texting and gliding our thumbs sideways, these two tendons are at an increased risk of becoming irritated and inflamed. Patients with Texting Thumb (clinically referred to as De Quervain disease) may experience swelling, nodules, and increased pain on the thumb side of the wrist. A simple way to a test for this condition is called the Finkelstein test. Simply clasp the thumb in the palm with all four fingers and rotate downward at the wrist joint. A positive Finkelstein test is indicated when pain is experienced on the thumb side of the wrist.
Cortisone injections, surgical release, and immobilization are all options if conservative management isn’t enough. Actions we can take in physical therapy to prevent worsening of Texting Thumb symptoms include:
Activity modification, icing, and avoiding repetitive thumb and wrist movements are also indicated for anyone who experiences discomfort with the Finklestein test. For Texting Thumb, prevention and early treatment are especially important since these affected tendons can take months to heal once irritated.
So, here’s the takeaway: Put the phone down, do a few comfortable wrist and thumb stretches, and remember these delicate tendons and strong joints were designed to move, but not necessarily in a fixed position across a 2 inch screen thousands of times a day. Here are a few gentle stretches to get you started. Perform at a slow and controlled speed for 10 repetitions with a 5 second hold.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for all that you have done to help me get better. What I admire the most is that you have a kind, caring, outstanding staff that not only listens to what is going on with us but goes the extra mile to help each of us achieve our goals. Danny and Alika never, never, never gave up on me and helped me reclaim my life. I love all of you dearly."
− C. Marez
"William and I have been working out with Kristi on Saturday mornings for months now and we love it! We find the couples training so beautiful physically, mentally and relationally. Kristi not only challenges us with cardio and lifting but has introduced us to exercises that relate to balance and stretching. As we enter our 60’s we appreciate these balance routines and can see how it benefits our daily lives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard William say, “I am not doing that, that’s a girl exercise!” and then later he’ll say “wow that was harder than I thought” or sometime that week he’ll bring up an exercise we do on Saturday and how it benefited him that day! Most importantly we have blast encouraging each other, competing with each other and having fun! We appreciate A2 and Kristi for providing a space for us to stay fit and have fun. We wish you all much success! Thank you"
− Pam and William
"Everyone at A2 is fantastic. Had a great experience from the 1st phone call. Don't change, you guys are awesome!"