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PHYSIOTHERAPY FOR “GAMER’S THUMB”

I'm sure many of you who are avid gamers have experienced some soreness or discomfort in your thumb joint after a long gaming session. For most people, this is just a minor annoyance, but for some it can be quite debilitating. Did you know that your thumb is one of the most important muscles in your hand? It helps you grip things and do a lot of the work when you use your hand. So, if you get thumb joint pain, it can really affect your quality of life. If you're one of those people, you might be suffering from Gamer's Thumb. But, don't worry – there is help available! In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of physiotherapy for gamers thumb and how it can help to alleviate your thumb pain. Keep reading to learn more!

What is Gamer's Thumb?
This is an injury that happens in the gaming population, especially those who play on consoles. Gamer's thumb is the same as De Quervain's tenosynovitis (https://www.physiophi.com.au/de-quervains-tenosynovitis/) but in this case it has specific triggers when it comes to exposure through video games. Gamer's thumb happens because tendons at the back of the thumb become inflamed through repetitive strain from holding a controller, mouse or joystick and rapid tapping on buttons with the thumb.

Console gamers are particularly susceptible to gamer's thumb

WHY DOES THE WRIST GET AFFECTED?
The anatomy of the wrist is important in understanding how the development of gamer's thumb occurs. In certain parts of the body where space is more narrow, tendon sheaths are used to reduce friction to prevent any undue friction while still allowing tendons to glide. Tendon sheaths can be found in the hand, wrist, ankle and feet. Specific to gamer's thumb, the sheaths in the wrist at the base of the thumb from the extensor pollicis brevis and abductor pollicis longus become irritated through repetitive and prolonged strain.

The anatomy of the wrist and thumb

This development of irritation is akin to rubbing the skin on your hand with and without soap. With soap there is little friction and no irritation occurs, however without soap more pressure and discomfort can be felt after multiple repetitions.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
  • Pain at the base of the thumb and the thumb-side of the wrist
  • Weakness can also be felt with gripping due to pain onset
  • Pain while gaming - holding controller, mouse or joystick

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?
Gamer's thumb can develop in numerous ways across different gaming platforms:

  • Prolonged controller use with poor wrist posture

    Poor wrist positioning with a controller

  • Excessive use of the wrist with mouse movement

    Poor wrist positioning with mouse use

  • Rapid and prolonged tapping with the thumb, as is common in fighting games
  • Inadequate rest periods and not managing total gaming time

HOW CAN I MANAGE MY SYMPTOMS AT HOME?
There are several strategies that can be attempted at home:
  • Taking adequate breaks: Gamer's thumb happens because of a combination of high volume and high exposure. What this means is the activity is either highly repetitive (using the controller, lots of tapping of buttons, lots of mouse use etc) or there is a lot of time spent gaming. In a lot of cases it is a combination of highly repetitive tasks for a prolonged period of time.
  • Proper stretching and strengthening: Having good habits will go a long way in reducing pain over the lifespan. A proper routine of stretching and strengthening is vital.
  • Ice therapy and medication: Flare-ups can happen, and having a last-resort is always a good idea. Ice can be used to reduce any irritation and inflammation without taking painkillers.

HOW CAN PHYSIOPHI HELP?
  • Exercise Therapy: Stretches and strengthening exercises that are specific to the individual will speed up recovery. Physiophi understands that every gamer is different, and every platform has different physical demands on the user.

    Stretching the tendons in the wrist and thumb

    Using controlled eccentric loading to strengthen tendons

  • Massage Therapy: Massage can be extremely effective for reducing pain and tenderness over the base of the thumb. Even in the absence of swelling, releasing the surrounding structures can be beneficial in restoration of movement.

    Release work to decrease tension in the affected muscles

  • Advice and Education: Having all the information is very important to us at Physiophi, and we will always strive to provide the best possible outcome for gaming injuries. Everything from setup, type of equipment and which roles are played in what games are discussed. This is because having the correct strategies and management routine stems from having all the information.

DISCLAIMER
At Physiophi, we have an extensive background in gaming and are extremely enthusiastic about all injuries gaming, spreading across multiple platforms and multiple decades. Whether you are a casual gamer or a professional gamer, we have the knowledge to help you excel in gaming and treat your injuries with a fresh perspective for gamers, by gamers. If your pain is not improving, then book in an appointment with us to regain the ability to continue out-performing the competition.

PLEASE CONTACT US ON: (07) 3172 4332 TO HAVE A CHAT WITH OUR FRIENDLY STAFF OR SIMPLY BOOK ONLINE ON: WWW.PHYSIOPHI.COM.AU

REFERENCES
  1. Allbrook, V. (2019). 'The side of my wrist hurts': De Quervain's tenosynovitis. Aust J Gen Pract, 48(11), 753-756. https://doi.org/10.31128/AJGP-07-19-5018
  2. Benites-Zapata, V. A., Jiménez-Torres, V. E., & Ayala-Roldán, M. P. (2021). Problematic smartphone use is associated with de Quervain's tenosynovitis symptomatology among young adults. Musculoskelet Sci Pract, 53, 102356. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.msksp.2021.102356
  3. Goel, R., & Abzug, J. M. (2015). de Quervain's tenosynovitis: a review of the rehabilitative options. Hand (N Y), 10(1), 1-5. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11552-014-9649-3
  4. Meals, R. A. (2015). Efficacy of acupuncture for De Quervain's tenosynovitis. J Acupunct Meridian Stud, 8(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jams.2014.11.006
  5. Nakamura, T. (2019). De Quervain's Tenosynovitis. J Wrist Surg, 8(2), 89. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0039-1683984
  6. Oh, J. K., Messing, S., Hyrien, O., &Hammert, W. C. (2017). Effectiveness of Corticosteroid Injections for Treatment of de Quervain's Tenosynovitis. Hand (N Y), 12(4), 357-361. https://doi.org/10.1177/1558944716681976
  7. Tamura, H., Shikino, K., Uchida, S., &Ikusaka, M. (2020). de Quervain's tenosynovitis. BMJ Case Rep, 13(12). https://doi.org/10.1136/bcr-2020-240129

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