Prevention is better than cure: Gamers thumb and other lockdown ailments.

Being in lock down, we are now spending more time playing our video games, typing on laptops, and phones. 
Whilst this will likely keep your mind occupied, unfortunately it also opens up the door for a condition called Gamer’s thumb.  

Gamer’s thumb, scientifically known as De quervains tendinosis, is the inflammation, swelling and irritation of the tendons and/or tendon-sheath that run from your forearm to your thumb. This will cause friction between the tendon and the sheath it glides in, causing pain with certain movements.  

Commonly, gamer’s thumb is a result of repetitively stressing the tendons that we use to type and play video games. Many avid gamers will initially shrug off the pain however if left untreated, this condition can snowball into further limitations and increase pain.  

*De Quervain’s is also associated with pregnancy and some auto-immune diseases. 

Symptoms may include: 

-Pain running from your wrist to thumb 

-Swelling at the base to the tip of your thumb 

-Pain with typing or playing games 

-A popping or catching sensation when moving your wrist or thumb 

-Pain with grasping or gripping 

How to care for Gamer’s thumb: 

During the acute phase of recovery, immobilising the thumb has proven to be helpful at calming irritation at the tendons. 

Regular resting breaks and avoiding irritation will help kick-start your recovery. A physiotherapist can supply and fit you with the appropriate thumb splint. This will help protect the tendons during the recovery phase and help in avoiding further aggravation.  

Whilst some inflammation is required during the healing process, ice packs can be used for roughly 10-15 minutes to provide some quick and local relief.  

Simple over the counter anti-inflammatories may also help calm symptoms.  

Whilst it is important to ensure the environment for healing is optimal, simple stretches and strengthening exercises will provide long-term results. (Completing a few of these stretches every hour or so will also help in avoiding injury!)

Simple daily exercises and stretches 

-Keeping your elbow straight, gently apply a downwards pressure to your palm. This will stretch the larger muscle groups running through your forearm. Hold for 15-20 seconds.  
*Flip your palm around and repeat to stretch the other side.

Hand mobility: 
-Open and close your hand as wide as possible to stretch out all the little intrinsic muscles that sit in your hand. This will also mobilise the joints in the hand to reduce stiffness.   

Thumb mobility and stretches: 

-Wrap your thumb into your fist, and tilt your wrist downwards. This stretch should be gentle. Hold for 10 seconds.
-Start with your hand opened as wide as possible, then with your thumb, touch the base of your pinky. Repeat 10-15 times.    

-Squeeze a tennis or stress ball, hold for 5 sec, and relax. This will strengthen the smaller intrinsic muscles in your palm.  

-Wrist curls with a resistance band or dumbbell. This will exercise the bigger muscle groups in your forearm. Start with a light resistance band or weight, then gradually increase the resistance as the exercise becomes easy. 

These exercises should be performed twice a day within your comfortable tolerance. If symptoms do not settle, make sure you contact you local physio for further help and guidance! 

By Peakhurst Physio

Caring for the whole person, not just the injury

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