Between sending text messages, shooting off emails, and updating our Facebook statuses, we put our phones – and our thumbs – through a lot of work. In fact, a 2013 study from Experian cited that American smartphone users aged 18 to 24 send over 2,000 texts per month (or about 67 per day) on average. While our thumbs are flying across the keys, we may be doing more than just texting – we may be doing some serious damage to our thumbs.
Barbara Gaunt, a certified hand therapist at ATI Milford, DE, weighed in on what all this texting can mean for our thumbs.
“The repetitive action of any activity can contribute to injury,” says Gaunt. “Texting is no different.”
Gaunt notes that it’s important for people to consider the cumulative effect of similar activities that use the same muscle groups.
“Texting alone may not necessarily cause injury,” says Gaunt. “But texting combined with other activities that use the same muscles, such as playing video games and performing hand-intensive jobs, can put people at a higher risk for injury.”
One common diagnosis is DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis, a condition that occurs when the two tendons at the base of the thumb are irritated as they cross the wrist.
“Patients may experience pain and tenderness along the outside of the wrist into the base of the thumb,” Gaunt says. “Some have more pain with thumb flexion, while others have more pain with thumb extension. Pain can also occur with wrist motion.”
Gaunt provides these suggestions to lower your risk of injury:
- Take breaks. As with any activity, taking breaks to decrease the highly repetitive nature of tasks can help. Ice can be helpful over the painful area if symptoms develop.
- Stretch. Yes, you should even stretch your thumbs! Try this simple stretch: hold out your hand with your fingers together and your thumb pointing upward. Slowly slide your thumb across your palm and strive to touch the base of your pinkie with the tip of your thumb, then return to the starting position.
- Consider your other activities. Your risk for injury increases when you engage in other activities that use the same muscles. If possible, minimize other activities that require heavy usages of your thumb to reduce risk for injury.
If you think you may have an upper extremity injury, come visit any of our clinics for a complimentary injury screening or learn more about hand therapy.