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Thumb Pain, Tenosynovitis and th ...

Posted Dec 13 2008 11:33pm

Thumb Pain, Tenosynovitis and the SmartPhone Syndrome

Monday, February 18, 2008 14:57

If your thumb is sore and swollen, there are several things you can do to loosen up and relieve the ache. 

Hopefully, even if your thumb is sore, your tongue is still agile, because you might have to get it around the word Tenosynovitis. Tenosynovitis, often called Trigger finger or DeQuervain’s syndrome, is actually a swelling around the tunnel surrounding the tendons that control the thumb, and affects the side rather than the padding/underside of the thumb.  DeQuervain’s syndrome isn’t always well understood and isn’t always related to overuse — sometimes, for example, it occurs inexplicably for new mothers.

 Thumb pain, whether tendon- or muscle-related, has become a common complaint for people who use SMS messaging on their phones all too regularly, so it is sometimes called BlackBerry thumb  – but that’s not a new injury, just a new name, and it might relate to tenosynovitis or other disorders.  

You might also experience this sort of pain if you are gripping your computer mouse too hard, holding your thumbs in the air as you type, or dragging and clicking too much on a laptop trackpad. You can relieve your stiffness by stretching your thumbs and massaging them to get the blood flowing again.  You can also ice them, or use contrast baths, to relieve the swelling.  Then, try playing with Chinese medicine balls, which will help bring your thumb through its range of motion and help you get strength and coordination back.  (Medium to large sized bouncy balls work too, just don’t drop them on hard surfaces!)

Once you figure out what’s causing it, make adjustments.  If you use a smartphone, try to reduce your messaging.  Or, get a fold out keyboard so you can spread the work across all your fingers, not just thumbs.  If you’re gripping your mouse, try another mouse model.

Naturally, if the pain persists or is unbearable, see your doctor!  She will be able to make a better diagnosis whether your pain is muscle related, or tenosynovitis, or some other problem, and give you treatment based on your specific pain.

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2 Responses to “Thumb Pain, Tenosynovitis and the SmartPhone Syndrome”

  1. Bethany says:

    February 22nd, 2008 at 11:46 am

    I have been afflicted with Dequervain’s in both hands ever since the birth of my almost 9 month old son. I have seen an orthopedic specialist for it and have had all types of treatment for it, none of which helped. The last resort is surgery, and I am uninsured so that is out of the question.
    Needless to say, I have had to endure 24 hour a day pain. I was wondering what specific exercises can be done with the Chinese medicine balls? Believe it or not, I actually have a pair that was given as a gift. I am desperate at this point for some relief so any input is appreciated!

  2. Amy says:

    February 25th, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Hi Bethany,
    I’m sorry to hear about your dilemma. Thanks for asking your question here. I thought it deserved a full answer, so I dedicated a post to the use of chinese medicine balls. I hope the answer helps you! Let me know whether it works, and if it helps relieve your pain.
    One thing I didn’t mention in the post is that I might also suggest warming up your hands before exercising, if they are very stiff or painful.
    Here is the link directly to the latest post.
    Wishing you the best, Amy

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