Did your gaming abilities lead you to experience Gamers Thumb? It's becoming a common, painful condition in the gaming community. It occurs when the tendons that control the movement of the thumb are inflamed, affecting the thumb side of the wrist.
Gaming is one of the causes of Gamers' Thumb, including thumb overuse and repetitive thumb and wrist movements. These causes can result in swelling, pain at the thumb's base, and difficulty gripping objects.
This scientifically-backed article provides information on how Gamers Thumb can impact your daily life, along with the proper diagnosis, pain management, and treatment to prevent its severity and recurrence.
What is Gamers Thumb?
A recent article from Cureus described De Quervain's tenosynovitis (DQT) as a painful condition caused by the inflammation of the tendons as controllers of thumb movement, specifically the abductor pollicis longus (APL) and extensor pollicis brevis (EPB). The condition affects the tendons, particularly on the lateral side of the wrist.
Gamer's Thumb or De Quervain's tenosynovitis commonly affects adult women between 30-50 years old and those who use repetitive wrist or hand movements in everyday activities. Note that this can also occur in any age group of men and women who engage in activities related to a strained tendon in the hand and wrist, like using hand tools for long periods and playing sports.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Common symptoms of Gamers Thumb in a study from the European Journal of Health Sciences include pain, stiffness, tingling, exhaustion, numbness, and burning. Complaints consist of a restricted range of motion, a decline in grip strength, and loss of normal sensation.
Generally, the combination of clinical and physical evaluation is how healthcare providers diagnose Gamers Thumb or De Quervain's tenosynovitis (DQT). More specifically, a 2019 study provided that clinical diagnosis can be implemented with the Wrist Hyperflexion Abduction Thumb Test (WHAT), the Diagnostic Screening Tool validated for De Quervain's tenosynovitis (DQT). At least 5-7 of the following criteria are used for further examination aiding diagnosis: Distal radioulnar joint sensitivity, local swelling, sensitivity, the thickness of extensor retinaculum, pain, ganglion cysts, and other absent causes, and positive Finkelstein's test.
As a primary component of the physical examination, Finkelstein's test is executed through the following steps:
- The patient is required to make a fist with fingers closed over the thumb
- The medical professional gently bends the wrist toward the ulnar deviation (little finger) to effectively stretch the tendons affected by Gamers Thumb or DQT
- A positive Finkelstein test is considered if the patient experiences sharp pain, particularly over the APL and EPB tendons or the thumb side of the wrist
Causes of Gamers Thumb
Gaming Habits and Ergonomics
Prolonged gaming and poor ergonomics contribute to the condition in factors like increased pressure/force, lack of rest, awkward hand or wrist positions, and repetitive thumb movements. The relationship between mobile gaming and de Quervain's disease (DD) was assessed in a 2019 study. Results showed that 49% of students in school have DD. A higher risk of the condition was associated with a change in wrist position, prolonged mobile gaming duration, and more frequent play.
It was reported that the participants would play 2, 2-4, 4-6, and 6 hours per day. Poor ergonomics or ergonomic incompatibility would result in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in a 2018 article. MSDs like De Quervain's tenosynovitis have common risk factors like office work and working with computers.
This is due to long hours of uninterrupted keying, insufficient work surface, unsupported forearm posture, monitor height, and non-optimal location of the mouse.
Anatomy and Susceptibility
Gamers Thumb has anatomical predispositions that might increase its risk of occurring in individuals. Some people have greater thumb or wrist joint hypermobility or joint laxity, and the increased flexibility can lead to irritation against the tendon sheaths, increasing the risk of the condition. Tendon variations pose a risk, making the tendons more prone to inflammation, friction, and irritation. Due to age, decreased elasticity and blood supply can make some individuals prone to injuries. Other predispositions are muscle imbalances, thumb position, and arthritic conditions.
Impact of Gamers Thumb on Daily Life
Gamers Thumb affects the gaming abilities and session duration of people who are usually active in video/games and other games that require repetitive thumb movements. Gamers can struggle with thumbstick control and precise button presses due to pain and inflammation in the thumb tendons. Their continuous playtime will become limited as they may need to take more breaks due to the discomfort of the condition. If players start to experience limited competitiveness or enjoyment, some may be persistent to continue playing. The continued strain on the affected tendons can lead to severe symptoms and chronic inflammation.
Aside from reduced gaming performance, people with Gamers Thumb can face daily challenges due to discomfort, pain, and inflammation in the thumb tendons and limited wrist mobility. There's a limitation and difficulty in executing activities like household chores, driving, gripping objects, carrying bags, taking care of children, and playing sports and other physical activities.
Gamers Thumb Pain - What Does It Feel Like, How To Manage It
Understanding The Pain
People who have Gamers Thumb experience stabbing and sharp pain during thumb and wrist movements. This is usually triggered when APL and EPB tendons glide or slide within their sheaths, which can result in irritation. There's also an aching and throbbing pain on the base of the thumb into the wrist due to inflamed tendons, which can occur during activities or when you're just resting. Pain triggers include lifting/carrying, pinching, repetitive activities, pressure/force, and rotational wrist movements.
Managing Thumb Pain
Easy and immediate pain relief methods for Gamers Thumb include:
- Gentle massage - This can help reduce pain and for the muscles to relax
- Rest - Allow the affected wrist/thumb to rest to alleviate pain and inflammation
- Ice - For 15-20 minutes, apply ice packs to reduce pain and swelling
- Compression - Use a compression bandage to support the affected area
- Gentle stretching - Gentle wrist and thumb stretches can help and improve flexibility
Scientific Studies on Gamers Thumb
Using splint therapy and corticosteroid injections through a multimodal approach as nonsurgical management of Gamers Thumb or De Quervain's tenosynovitis was revealed to be more beneficial than using them separately based on an article on Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Some medical professionals provided a clinical review from the Cinahl Information Systems regarding the recent research on the risk factors and treatment of Gamers Thumb. Research showed that besides individuals frequently spending prolonged periods in mobile phone use and video games, people who do knitting, needlepoint, carpentry, and physical sports like tennis, bowling, and golf can have the condition. In terms of treatment, greater satisfaction was reported for patients who used the new orthosis design by immobilizing the thumb and restricting ulnar and radial deviation while allowing wrist flexion and extension.
A study from the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrated Medical Sciences assessed the effectiveness of Agnikarma with Kshoudra or cauterization with a 7-day gap and performed in four sittings to a 34-year-old man. Results showed an acceleration of healing, relief of pain and muscle spasm, painless range of movement of the joint, and resolution of inflammation.
The effectiveness of Kinesio Taping and Physiotherapy was compared in a study from the Journal of Musculoskeletal Research in treating Gamers Thumb (De Quervain's tenosynovitis). A one-month course of treatment showed an 80% success rate of Kinesio Taping, while 30% physiotherapy, concluding that patients responded favorably to Kinesio Taping in improving the swelling.
Data and Statistics
Results showed in a 2022 study that repeat injections have a higher success rate than multiple injections in treating De Quervain's tenosynovitis. Patients received a 19.7% repeat injection and 8.7% with surgery in a successful single injection treatment in 71.9%.
The rate of reintervention following surgery for patients with De Quervain's tenosynovitis was discussed in a recent study from the Journal of Hand and Microsurgery.
Seventy-six patients participated in this study, wherein
- 18 (23.7%) of the patients reported thumb-related activities with pain,
- 4 of the participants had a reintervention following surgery.
Decreased strength in the thumb was reported by
- 21 patients (26.9%) reported decreased strength in the thumb, wherein 2 had a reintervention when compared to the contralateral side.
Eight patients in total encountered reintervention, while 1 had a cortisone injection and 7 had a second surgery.
Gamers Thumb Treatment
A study from the Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Journal showed medical experts agreed on suitable treatment options for Gamers Thumb or De Quervain's tenosynovitis like instructions combined with splinting, surgery, NSAIDs, NSAIDs plus splinting, corticosteroid injection, and corticosteroid injections plus splinting. Medications and corticosteroid injections can help alleviate pain and inflammation.
Splinting or wearing a brace immobilizes the thumb and wrist to reduce strain on the affected tendons. During surgery, a surgeon releases the constricting tendon by making a small incision at the base of the thumb to relieve pressure on the affected tendons.
Physical Therapy and Exercises
Here are exercises that can help aid Gamers Thumb:
- Thumb circles
- Wrist circles
- Thumb Flexor Stretch
- Thumb Extensor Stretch
- Wrist Flexor Stretch
- Wrist Extensor Stretch
A 2022 study showed findings that acupuncture for 2 weeks is effective and safe in the improvement of strengths and disabilities of the hand and effective in the reduction of pain intensity in patients with Gamers Thumb or De Quervain's tenosynovitis. Additionally, acupuncture has long-term effects on the condition.
Soft tissue massage was mentioned in a case study wherein it was performed following therapeutic ultrasound on the first dorsal compartment tendons to enhance fluid drainage from tissue muscle and relax tight musculature.
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy in a 2020 study is an easy and safe method to enhance upper extremity functions and hand grip strength and reduce pain in patients with De Quervain's tenosynovitis.
Physio Flex Pro as an Alternative Treatment
Consider an alternative and comprehensive supplement like Physio Flex Pro, which has ingredients from natural sources that can alleviate pain in the affected tendon.
The supplement provides anti-inflammatory properties like omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric, and Boswellia to reduce inflammation. It can promote flexibility in playing online/video games, gripping objects, doing household chores, and playing sports.
Preventing Gamers Thumb
Take note of these tips to help you create a gaming setup to minimize the risk of the condition:
- Thumb support - Utilize thumb braces or padded gloves to reduce strain on the tendons and provide support during gaming
- Good lighting - This may seem like a minimal tip, but it's useful to maintain proper posture and reduce eye strain
- Proper controller grip - Use your whole hand with a relaxed grip on the gaming controller
- Wrist support - Prepare a padded surface or wrist rest to maintain a neutral wrist position
- Frequent breaks - These require you to stretch your fingers, rest your hands, and perform thumb and wrist exercises for flexibility
- Healthy gaming habits - Prevent overuse of your wrists and thumbs by maintaining balance between gaming and other activities
Healthy Gaming Practices
A study in the Current Sports Medicine Reports suggested taking regular breaks using the "20-20-20 rule" for vision care. You'll have to shift your eyes at least 20 feet away when you look at an object for at least 20 seconds. Do this for every 20 minutes.
Other regular breaks include setting a timer to pause the game, performing stretches, and taking mic breaks every 10-15 minutes.
Consider stretches to promote healthy gaming practices like wrist circles, thumb stretches, wrist extensor stretches, and wrist flexor stretches.
Alternative gaming options include limiting gameplay duration, staying hydrated and nourished, touchscreen games, switching to a controller, and voice commands.
1. What is Gamers Thumb and why does it happen?
Also known as De Quervain's tenosynovitis, Gamers Thumb affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist in a painful condition. This may not be exclusive to gamers, as it can occur in individuals who engage in repetitive thumb and wrist movements. The condition develops due to the inflammation and irritation of the tendon sheath surrounding the APL and EPB tendons due to repetitive and forceful thumb movements.
2. How is Gamers Thumb diagnosed?
Diagnosis commonly depends on the combination of clinical evaluation and physical examination, along with Finkelstein's Test, to determine if you have a positive Gamers Thumb or De Quervain's tenosynovitis.
3. Can Gamers Thumb be cured, or does it go away on its own?
This condition can be managed with the appropriate treatment to alleviate pain and inflammation in the affected tendon.
4. What are the best treatments for Gamers Thumb?
Best treatments include corticosteroid injections, thumb spica splint, anti-inflammatory medications, gentle thumb and wrist exercises, physical therapy, and surgery for severe cases.
5. How can I game without getting Gamers Thumb?
Make sure to take regular breaks, execute gentle thumb and wrist exercises, limit gameplay duration, and maintain good ergonomics.
6. Is surgery necessary for Gamers Thumb?
In case of a severe condition or when conservative treatments aren't effective, surgical intervention becomes necessary.
7. Can Gamers Thumb lead to permanent damage?
The condition may not lead to permanent damage with appropriate care and having the right treatment. But if left untreated, it may lead to more severe and long-term issues.
8. Are there any new research studies on Gamers Thumb?
A recent case study showed findings about a 10-year-old nomophobic student who had a deficit hyperactivity disorder due to excessive use of a smartphone. The student was diagnosed with Gamers Thumb and Text Neck syndrome.
Young adult E-gamers in a 2023 study showed significant prevalence of Gamers Thumb (De Quervain's tenosynovitis). The majority of the participants reported moderate levels of pain on the visual analog scale, while 471 had a positive result on the Finkelstein test.
9. How common is Gamers Thumb among professional gamers?
Gamers Thumb can be a common condition in the gaming community, specifically Esports. However, further systematic research is needed to determine the prevalence of this condition.
10. Are there ergonomic gaming controllers that help prevent Gamers thumb?
Split keyboards, trackball controllers, ergonomic gamepads, and ergonomic joysticks are just some of the equipment that can prevent the Gamers Thumb.
In conclusion, Gamers Thumb (De Quervain's tenosynovitis) continues to be a common condition in the gaming community, especially with the rising impact of technology.
Therefore, it's essential to recognize how it can affect an individual's daily life by choosing the right treatment. Consider medical interventions, physical therapies, and alternative treatments like Physio Flex Pro for treatment.
Also, don't forget to seek advice from a medical professional for pain or discomfort for insights before trying any treatment.