Video Games And Gamer's Thumb: What's The Go?
Friday, August 13, 2021
These days, many of us find it hard to tear ourselves away from technology, whether it's video games, texting, or spending the whole work day at your laptop. The last thing on your mind is injuries from such activities.
But, don't be so sure you're safe in your gaming chair. Have you ever heard of gamer's thumb?
Here, we'll explain what gamer's thumb is, its symptoms, how to fix gamer's thumb, and preventative measures you can take to avoid it.
What is Gamer's Thumb?
Gamer's thumb is a nickname for a repetitive stress injury that causes inflammation of the tendons around the thumb. Technically, the condition is called Quervain's Tenosynovitis and it affects more than just gamers.
Caused by repetitive motion, Quervain's Tenosynovitis got its nickname because gamers tend to play for long periods at a time – much longer than people spend texting, typing, or doing other activities that might cause the condition.
Symptoms of Gamer's Thumb
So, what are the signs you might have gamer's thumb? You might have gamer's thumb if you experience symptoms such as:
- Clicking, locking, catching, or popping sensation when moving your thumb
- Pain after playing video games
- Pain and swelling near the base of your thumb, from the fingerprint to the palm, or from the fingernail to the wrist
- Pain that travels up your arm
- Thumb or wrist pain that worsens with movement
If you're experiencing anything unusual with your thumb and you're an avid video game player, you use a keyboard regularly, you're excessive with texting, you knit, you're a baby-carrying parent, or you play golf or racket sports, it's time to see a physio.
How Long Does Gamer's Thumb Last?
Unfortunately, gamer's thumb can have lasting effects if it's not dealt with appropriately or in a timely manner. In most mild cases, the symptoms last four to five hours after gaming or typing and if this is happening to you, it's important you get it checked out.
Stretching, performing thumb exercises, and taking regular breaks from gaming and other repetitive motion can help limit the long-term effects of gamer's thumb. The last thing you want is permanent tendon damage which could lead to losing your ability to grip, loss of range of motion, and constant pain.
Long story short, your gaming days are over if your gamer's thumb gets bad enough.
How to Fix Gamer's Thumb?
There a few ways you can go about fixing gamer's thumb and the first starts with rest. It's a good idea at the first signs of discomfort to avoid the activities that might be causing your gamer's thumb.
If resting doesn't do the trick or if your gamer's thumb comes back with a vengeance, there are other remedies:
- Physiotherapy where you'll learn and practice exercises for gamer's thumb.
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Corticosteroid injection
- Surgery – worse case scenario
- Using a gamer's thumb splint after you spend time gaming
Product Info on Thumb Splint - https://www.opchealth.com.au/flexible-thumb-splint
Of course, at Physio Inq, we can assure you that our therapists are highly trained and ready to assist you with your gamer's thumb injury.
Gamer's Thumb Exercises
Physiotherapists know how to get rid of gamer's thumb with these exercises. It's always best to meet with a trained professional to learn the proper technique before trying these at home. Here are a couple of exercises that help relieve pain for Quervain's Tenosynovitis most common injury caused by gamers thumb.
- Use a small foam roller to roll out your thumb in the areas that are sore.
- Stretch your thumb tendons by extending your arm as if to shake someone's hand and gently pulling your thumb toward you using your other hand. Hold for 30 seconds on each hand.
- Curl your thumb into your palm (as if you were signaling the number four) and extend it back to form an open hand, repeating 15 times.
- Extend an open hand and create small circles with your thumb. Repeat 15 times in each direction.
- Bend at the middle thumb joint 15 times.
- Alternate between making a fist and opening your hand, repeating 15 times.
- Extend your hand as if to shake someone's hand and lift your hand toward and away from you by isolating your wrist, repeating 15 times.
How to Prevent Gamer's Thumb?
There are various ways to prevent gamer's thumb – some being more obvious than others.
First of all, you'll want to limit any excessive game playing. Sure, if you're an avid gamer, this can be a tough one, but a decision we think is worth it. Gamer's thumb can affect you your entire life. Sacrificing an hour or two of gaming is surely a good deal for preserving your hand health.
When you do decide to play, stretch beforehand and take breaks. Video games might not seem like a physical activity, but your hands and fingers would argue otherwise. Simple stretches can help reduce the risk of getting gamer's thumb and taking scheduled breaks allow your hands to relax.
How long does gamer's thumb take to heal?
On average, it takes about four to six weeks of rest and treatment to heal gamers thumb. When healing from gamers thumb, it's best to not only avoid playing video games but also to avoid any activity that might agitate your gamers thumb including texting, typing, knitting or even carrying a child.
It's also important during the healing period to work with a physiotherapist, physical therapist or occupational therapist. They'll work with your through exercises to help rehabilitate the affected area and teach you how to tape your hand properly to aid in the healing process.
Then, in a month or two, your thumb should be ready to get back to gaming with far less pain. Just remember to keep stretching before and after you start gaming and to take breaks to ensure your gamers thumb doesn't return.
Can you recover from gamers thumb?
Yes, you can recover from gamers thumb with proper rest and rehabilitation.
Depending on the severity of your gamers thumb, it usually takes about four to six weeks of rest to recover from gamers thumb. That means no gaming, texting, knitting or doing other activities that might agitate the gamers thumb area.
Rehabilitation is also important during the recovery process as you'll need to keep the joint mobile and strong. It's best to work with an occupational therapist, physiotherapist or physical therapist who can help you through beneficial exercises for your thumb and can tape up your hand to aid in the recovery process even more.
Are gamers thumbs permanent?
No, gamers thumbs are not permanent in most cases. However, if you go too long without rest and recovery from gamers thumb, the damage can sometimes last permanently.
If you're taking care of your hands and thumb properly, gamers thumb may last only about five hours after playing video games or typing. However, you will need to take a longer rest in order to recover. If you push through the pain consistently, you're risking permanent damage.
It's so important to take the proper precautions to prevent gamers thumb since so much of our everyday tasks these days are often related to gaming and typing. It's often how we relax and how we work. So, make sure you're stretching your hands before using them and taking regular breaks to protect your hands from long-lasting gamers thumb effects.
How do you treat an overused thumb?
To treat an overused thumb, you'll need to first of all rest and see a physiotherapist for rehabilitation.
Rest is often overlooked but is incredibly important for any type of recovery. At the first signs of gamers thumb (and even before any symptoms arise), it's a smart move to take some time to rest. An overused thumb can lead to painful gamers thumb which could compromise our ability to play, type, text and more. Rest truly is the best medicine for an overused thumb.
However, physiotherapy is often incredibly effective too. It might seem silly to see a professional for your thumb, but in our modern times, it's actually quite important. We use our fingers and thumbs so much, whether during our desk jobs that we spend typing away or in our leisure time where many of us enjoy playing video games.
How to Get Rid of Gamers Thumb?
To get rid of gamers thumb, first and foremost you need to rest. While it may be difficult to go without playing your favourite video games, typing or texting, it's necessary for getting rid of gamers thumb.
In many cases, symptoms of gamers thumb will go away within a few hours after you finish playing. However, in more extreme cases, you may need to rest for up to six weeks.
To speed up your recovery time, working with a physiotherapist or physical therapist to rehabilitate your gamers thumb can be incredibly helpful.
Gamer's Thumb Recovery Time
On average, gamers thumb recovery takes anywhere between four to six weeks. However, this is only if your gamers thumb is relatively severe. If you're just starting to experience symptoms as you're playing, they should go away within a few hours of rest.
This is an important distinction. After all, getting back to gaming, typing or texting in only a few hours is a far better option than waiting over a month to use your thumb properly. So, it's always better, in the long run, to prevent gamers thumb than to push through the pain.
Be sure that you're taking regular breaks, usually every 30 minutes, and if you're a serious gamer or your work involves long hours of typing, be sure to stretch out your hands before and after each session.
Thumb Exercises for Gamers
The best thumb exercises for gamers are those that loosen up the joint and increase its overall mobility. Mobility refers to both strength and flexibility which can really serve you well if you're constantly gaming. These kinds of exercises include thumb curls, thumb extensions and opening and closing your fist.
Keep in mind that the thumb exercises you should do before you get gamers thumb and after the onset of gamers thumb will be different. Check out some of the best thumb exercises for gamers above or book an appointment with a physiotherapist who can offer professional advice.
Thumb Stretches for Gamers
The best thumb stretches for gamers are those that are gentle enough not to overstretch the muscles of your thumb but, at the same time, improve the overall flexibility of your hand. Thumb stretches are best done after a gaming session as a way to “cool down” the muscles of your hands.
In the same way that it's important to cool down and stretch your body after a workout, it's just as important to stretch your hands after they've worked hard. Stretching is key to preventing gamers thumb and any long-term hand issues from gaming.
Some thumb stretches for gamers include using a foam roller or gently pulling your thumb with your opposite hand while in a “thumbs up” position. Check out some of our favourite thumb stretches for gamers below or book an appointment with a physiotherapist for an expert opinion.
Source - AskDoctor Jo
If you're worried you have gamer's thumb, come see us at Physio Inq. Whether you book an appointment in one of our convenient locations or you call on our mobile services to come to you, we'd be happy to help with your sore thumbs. You'll be back to Call of Duty or Fortnight in no time!
If you can't to get one of our many Physio Inq clinics across Australia why not try one of our mobile & home physiotherapy services in the comfort of your own home. See some of the major cities we are currently operating in.