What is Texting Thumb and How is it Caused?

It has been proven time and again that with every new invention or with every step technology takes towards making life easier for the people there is a cost that needs to be paid by the people. Cell Phone is one such technology boost that has helped connect people to one another irrespective of their location but this also comes at a cost in the form of repetitive stress injury which in layman's terms can be called as Texting Thumb Injury. Cell Phones which were one time a luxury is now a part of life and has become a necessity. Same is true for texting messages be it to a friend or a colleague texting is an important part of using cell phones today. Little do people know that excessive texting may be harmful to the fingers as people do not follow proper ergonomics when it comes to texting. Texting Thumb really became a problem with the advent of Smartphones which have the capability of sending and receiving e-mails with the push of a button on the cell phone and people constantly being on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. There is no harm in being connected to the outside world and express your opinion but the way you use your fingers in expressing your opinion is what that leads to the problem resulting in Texting Thumb Injury.

Texting Thumb

Texting Thumb Injury is a form of a RSI (repetitive stress injury) which affects the thumb and the wrist. An individual with this condition will have pain in the area of the thumb and wrist and will also experience a popping sensation. The individual may also have decreased grip strength due to Texting Thumb Injury.

When it comes to the technicality, the thumb is quite sufficient to press the keys on the keypad but the problem starts when the thumb has to move from one end of the keypad to the other which the thumb joint is not made to do and results in excess stress on the thumb and when this is done chronically then it results in Texting Thumb Injury. Smart Phones make the situation even worse despite having a QWERTY keypad but the problem is the thumb has to move a lot more distance than the normal phones as the screen is much bigger and this puts additional strain on the thumb. Apart from it people tend to use thumb more often to perform some of the regular functions of the smartphone like sliding to unlock the phone, sliding the screen up and down using their thumb, pressing the home button, few people type on smartphone using their thumb and few prefer tapping with other fingers to type, zooming feature on the smartphone also involves using thumb more often. So, texting thumb or RSI (repetitive stress injury) is certainly a problem which many people face.

Texting Thumb Injuries can be classified as a form of tendonitis or tenosynovitis or even both. Texting Thumb Injury causes irritation, swelling, and inflammation of the tendons of the thumb which control the motion of the thumb. There may also be inflammation of the tenosynovium which is a membrane which functions as a sliding surface at the wrist opening through which the tendons slide through. This condition can be extremely painful and may result in restricted motion of the thumb and reduced ability to grip objects. When an individual has Texting Thumb Injury he or she will have pain with flexing of the wrist or while making a fist to grip something. This can be seen in people who play games on the phone for prolonged periods of time. If Texting Thumb Injury is ignored or left untreated then it may cause the inflammation to worsen and the synovial sheaths to get thick and degenerate resulting in permanent damage with loss of grip strength and restricted motion. Texting Thumb Injury is known by the name of De Quervain's Syndrome or Blackberry Thumb.

Texting Thumb- Anatomically Explained

To understand Texting Thumb Injury in terms of anatomy, when we flatten our hand out with the back of the hand placed downward and observe our thumb moving. It can move in two ways either up or down. This is called as palmar abduction. It can also move sideways and this motion is called as radial abduction. The tendons in the thumb are encompassed within the synovial sheaths. This means that even when the wrist is bent or twisted the tendons can still move without getting tangled. The tendons pass through an opening which is covered by a membrane called as tenosynovium. If the synovial sheaths get inflamed this may cause increased friction resulting in the tenosynovium to also get inflamed resulting in a condition called as tenosynovitis. In Texting Thumb Injury, the tendons that get inflamed are attached to the EPB or the extensor pollicis brevis muscle and the extensor pollicis longus muscle. These are the muscles which move the thumb sideways. In Texting Thumb Injury, the irritation caused due to repetitive texting causes inflammation of the synovial sheath causing swelling and enlargement of a part of the tendon thus making it trough for the tendon to pass through the membrane resulting in pain and decreased range of motion and loss of grip strength.

Ease Texting Thumb or RSI with Intelligent Personal Assistant

If RSI (repetitive stress injury) or Texting Thumb Injury is a result of technological advancement, then technology also has one another solution to that problem. Every smartphone these days comes with a voice assistant that can help avoid typing the content. All you need to do is dictate and the voice assistant does the rest and that too without using the hands. Smart phone features like voice assistant can do a world of difference to people suffering from Repetitive Strain Injury like texting thumb. When we talk about personal voice assistant features on today's smart phones the three frontrunners in this feature are

Siri: This is a feature which comes with iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. In this feature the user does not have to text anything using the thumb but just has to dictate the message and the feature creates an interface through which the dictated text is typed and sent to the recipient.

Google Now: This is also a voice assistant feature which has been developed by Google and is quite similar to Siri in that no hand texting is required to send messages and just a voice command does the trick and sends the message to the required name. This feature works on Android and nexus phones.

Microsoft Cortana: This is a voice assistant feature which can send messages by voice commands and is available on Microsoft phones 8.1 and above. It also works on Android phones as well.

All the features described above act as a boon for people suffering from texting Thumb Injury or repetitive Stress Injury as they do not have to overuse their thumb and still get their job done. Hence it can be said that even if technology advances comes at a cost it still finds a way to overcome them.

Treatment for Texting Thumb

Below mentioned are some of the ways to cope with Texting Thumb Injury:

Stop Texting and Playing Games on Phone: The first and foremost thing is to stop doing the activity which is aggravating the condition. In this case, it is frequent texting using the phone. It is understandable that in today's world it is virtually impossible to stay away from texting but it should be avoided as much as possible to stay away from Texting Thumb Injury. Texting continuously for hours and weeks will cause problems even for a person using the most ergonomically correct phone available.

Icing: Using ice packs is also a mode of treating Texting Thumb Injury. This can be done by applying ice packs for 15-20 minutes on the affected thumb two to three times a day. Avoid direct contact of the ice to the skin and instead use a towel or an ice bag for this purpose.

Immobilization of Thumb: In some severe cases of Texting Thumb Injury, it may be required that the thumb be immobilized so as to allow the inflammation and the swelling to come down. This will also help in preventing worsening of the condition. This can be done by using a splint or a brace. The best suited splint or brace can be suggested by your physician depending on the type and severity of the injury.

Change Texting Finger: In case if texting cannot be avoided and there is too much pain in the thumb preventing you from texting then changing the finger with which you text can be helpful. This may be tough as we are all used to texting with the thumb but even for a few days if you can avoid the thumb from texting then it may give the thumb the rest it deserves and allow the inflammation to come down

Perform Finger Exercises: As is the case with most body parts, exercising the thumb regularly is essential to keep it in shape and prevent injuries, especially when you know that you use the thumb more than it is supposed to be used.

Take Time While Texting: If everything else fails, one method of coping with Texting Thumb Injury is to text and type slowly so that excess stress is not placed on the thumb. Try and massage the thumb every now and then so that it feels rested and you may also get some relief from the symptoms of Texting Thumb Injury.

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Last Modified On: May 2, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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