More Health:

November 13, 2019

Sending too many DMs can leave you with 'texting thumb'

The chronic condition causes pain in the thumb and wrist

Prevention Chronic Pain
Texting Thumb Yura Fresh/

Texting too much can cause De Quervain's Tenosynovitis, a chronic condition that results in pain in the thumb and wrists.

Is someone on your case about how much time you spend texting on your phone or playing video games? 

There may be various reasons for their concerns – maybe they desire more face-to-face conversations with you – and you may just want to brush them off. But there is an actual overuse injury related to too much continuous pressure placed on the wrist or hand.

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis, also known as "Texting thumb," is a chronic condition that results in pain and tenderness at the base of the thumb and in the tendons of the wrist. It can affect your ability to make a fist or pick up objects.

There are two tendons in particular that are affected. They naturally stretch and contract, allowing people to perform actions like texting. But if they are used too much, the sheaths around the tendon can become inflamed. 

"The sheaths swell and thicken, and restrict the movement of these tendons," according to Dr. Adam Strohl, a hand surgeon at Crozer-Keystone Health System. 

"Less space means more rubbing on the tendon and even more inflammation," he added. "This can cause burning or soreness and pain at the base of the thumb and up to the forearm, or may even cause a sensation like your thumb is getting stuck or popping when you try to move it."

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis mostly occurs among people between the ages of 30 and 50, according to Crozer-Keystone Health System. It occurs more often in women, particularly those who are pregnant or who care for babies and small children. The repetitive motions needed for racquet sports and gardening also can put people at greater risk.

Treatments include anti-inflammatory medication and corticosteroid injections for the pain and swelling. People with "texting thumb" also may need to cut back on activities that put pressure on the affected tendons or have their wrists and thumbs immobilized. Doctors also may prescribe hand therapy.

"Occasionally, if all other conservative treatments have proven unsuccessful, surgery may be necessary to release the pressure of the sheath around the tendons," Strohl added.

Dr. Eon Shin, an orthopedic surgeon at Jefferson University, describes the surgical intervention as a minimally-invasive outpatient procedure that only requires "a small, 1/2-inch incision in the bottom of the thumb."

"Through the incision, the tendon sheath is partically divided allowing the inflamed tendon to move more easily," he added.

Dr. Arnold-Peter C. Weiss, a hand surgeon with University Orthopedics in Rhode Island and Dr. John Gallucci, Jr., the CEO of JAG-One Physical Therapy in New Jersey both recently spoke to POPSUGAR about "texting thumb."

To relieve the pain, Gallucci Jr. recommended first typing slower and using another finger. Also, instead of writing a book-length text, pick up the phone and call instead.

Weiss warned that "texting thumb" also can lead to thumb arthritis. People who sometimes feel a tingling or numbness in their hands shouldn't ignore the symptoms. Instead, they should make an appointment with an orthopedic doctor.

Follow us

Health Videos