Gamers Thumb and How to Treat it.
When I’m about to put in a long console gaming session I can expect a couple things: lots of trash talking amongst friends and sore thumbs (aka Gamers Thumb). The latter being the one I’m here to help you with today and the former can be improved by watching some toxic Twitch streamers.
What is Gamers Thumb?
Gamer’s thumb, outside of the gaming community, is known as DeQuervain’s Syndrome (DQ). DQ is the inflammation/irritation of the tendons of the thumb and the sheaths that surround them. The synovial sheath surrounds the tendons and provides a lubricating frictionless envelope for the tendons to move through freely.
The two tendons involved are the Abductor Pollicis Longus (APL) and Extensor Pollicis Brevis (EPB). The most common place for the irritation to occur is where they cross over from the wrist to the thumb. If you take your thumb and draw it back towards you, these two tendons will pop up to create a small divot. This divot is known as the anatomical snuffbox for pretty obvious reasons. If you need clarification just ask a responsible adult what the term “snuffbox” means.
How Does Gamer’s Thumb Occur?
DQ usually occurs gradually over time as the tendons chronically become inflamed and irritated. The irritation is caused by chronic repetitive motions such as controller joystick movement, typing, playing piano, or texting.
As the irritation continues, you will begin to feel a burning, sharp, and sore sensation over the area. Trigger points (knots) typically start to form around the surrounding musculature along with adhesions around the sheaths. Both of these cause restrictions with normal movement mechanics of the thumb, which in turn causes you to play in pain, and most notably poorly.
Do I have Gamers Thumb?
Performing the above actions on a regular basis coupled with pain in the anatomical snuffbox are strong indicators. A few more ways to self-diagnose are:
- Restricted “squeaky” sounding movements when moving your thumb
- Pain with range of motion (movement) of the thumb
- Pain with ulnar deviation of the wrist (movement of the hand to the pinky side of the hand)
- Decreased grip strength
- Reproduction of your pain with the below movement known as Finklestein’s Test
How do I treat it?
Chances are if you are reading this article you are suffering from DQ in one form or another. If after performing some preliminary self-diagnosis you have found some positives, then it’s time to do some self-care. Some of the listed topics below will need to be performed by a trained medical professional and I’ll indicate which ones below with a *.
- Rest– It’s easier said than done I know, especially if your livelihood depends on performing those aggravating tasks. The thought process here should be to look at long-term goals rather than short-term. What I mean is that if you want to continue to perform those tasks later in your career, then you need to back off of them now.
- Ice and Ice massage– Icing the area will help decrease the inflammation and also have a numbing effect. Ice massage is performed by having a small bag of ice and rubbing the area. I also like to put some lotion on the area to help even more with the icing process.
- Bracing– I’ve seen numerous braces for DQ that immobilize the thumb and I’m not a fan. Immobilizing an inflamed/injured area will decrease the blood supply to the area, atrophy the musculature, and provide an environment for adhesion formation.
- Kinesiotaping*– If you need bracing I believe that Kinesiotaping is the way to go. K-tape/Rock Tape provides stability to the area, edema control, and still allows you to move your thumb.
- Manual Therapy*– Using manual therapy helps break up the tightness and adhesions within the area. In my experience manual therapy also allows me to move the tendons past the range of motion that you would normally stop at. As mean as that may sound, doing this helps with the reparative process significantly.
- Mobilization of the joint*– Mobilization provides similar benefits as manual therapy but also is beneficial to the thumb. The idea here is simple, “Joints are happy when they are moving.” If you cease to move the joint from the tendinous pain, then you will start to feel sore stiff pain from the lack of thumb movement. Once again, if you keep the body moving it will thank you.
The first (and usually hardest) goal is to do something about your pain from the list above. Once you have tackled that hurdle, the next step is to build up the endurance of the area. You can accomplish this by performing exercises daily. The only way to prevent DQ from coming back is to implement an exercises routine.
As we finish up this article I want to hammer home once again that you have to be proactive to doing this self-care or seeking out care for your DQ. The motions that led you to this point are most likely the same ones that help you earn a living. To continue making a living and enjoying gaming recreationally, you need to make a step in the right direction. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions feel free to let me know via email or below.
This article was writting by Dr. Drew FTW!
You can check his blog here : https://forthewellnessblog.com/