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Gamer's Thumb and Other Gaming Hand Injuries

September 18, 2018

Gamer’s thumb is one nickname given to a condition called de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. In this post, we'll talk about the causes and symptoms of gamer's thumb. And we'll let you know how to get rid of it. We'll also mention a few other gaming hand injuries that you should look out for.

Have you ever had a sore thumb after playing video games for 4 or 5 hours? You could be suffering from a repetitive stress injury nicknamed “gamer’s thumb.”

In this post, we’ll answer a few common questions about gamer’s thumb. We’ll tell you how this condition can be treated, and how you can prevent it. We’ll also let you know about a few other injuries that may be caused by gaming.

  • What is gamer’s thumb?
  • How do you know if you have gamer’s thumb?
  • Are there other injuries caused by gaming?
  • How to prevent gamer’s thumb
  • How to get rid of gamer’s thumb
  • How Motus can help

What is gamer’s thumb?

Gamer’s thumb is one nickname given to a condition called de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is a condition in which the tendons that move your thumb become inflamed.

Repetitive strain on your thumb tendons leads to inflammation which leads to pain and limited movement. Gaming is a common cause of repetitive strain on the thumb, so De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is often called “gamer’s thumb.”

Gaming isn’t the only way that you can develop this condition. Think about how much you use your thumbs while using your smartphone. That said, gaming may put a harder strain on your thumbs for a longer duration.

How do you know if you have gamer’s thumb? 

Symptoms of gamer’s thumb include:

  • Thumb pain after playing video games
  • Pain and swelling near the base of the thumb
  • Wrist pain that may travel up the arm
  • Thumb and wrist pain that get worse with movement
  • A catching or popping sensation when moving the thumb.

Are there other injuries caused by gaming?

Yes. In fact, some professional gamers have had to retire due to hand and wrist injuries.

Gaming requires repetitive, strenuous motion on the hands and wrists. Sometimes this strain happens for hours on end. That increases your risk for a repetitive stress injury (RSI).

Here are some of the common gaming injuries that we see:

  • Carpal tunnel
  • Trigger finger
  • Tennis elbow
  • de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

How to prevent gamer’s thumb 

Play for shorter periods of time

That’s a tough ask for most gamers. But spending less time playing may decrease your risk of developing gamer’s thumb. Would you sacrifice one extra hour of gaming time to save yourself from a very painful problem that affects the rest of your life? 

Stretch before playing and during breaks

Some very simple stretching can reduce your risk of developing gamer’s thumb. Hold your hand out as if to shake somebody’s hand. With our other hand, bend the thumb back towards your wrist. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times. This is just one useful stretch.

Take frequent breaks

Give your thumbs time to rest. Some gamers can go for hours on end without taking a break. But that puts great strain on your thumbs.

How to get rid of gamer’s thumb

If you think you’re suffering from gamer’s thumb, there are a few ways that you can get relief: 

Rest

This is the answer you’ll least want to hear. But you need to take a break from gaming to allow your tendons to heal. Playing through the pain only makes the situation worse, and may lead to further complications. 

Anti-inflammatory medication

NSAIDs can help reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Occupational therapy

An occupational therapist would create a treatment plan with exercises and stretches designed to increase your thumb’s mobility and reduce your pain.

Corticosteroids

If rest, medication and splinting don’t provide relief, a doctor may recommend getting corticosteroid injections. This is a more powerful way of reducing swelling and pain.

Surgery

If your condition continues to worsen, you may need to consult with a hand surgeon to find relief. A surgeon can relieve the symptoms of gamer’s thumb by cutting the sheath around tendons to make more room.

How Motus can help

If you think that you may be suffering from De Quervain’s Tendosynovitis, we can help. Every Motus location is staffed by a Certified Hand Therapist trained in treating repetitive stress injuries.

Let our occupational therapists help relieve your pain. Contact us to request an appointment today.