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Hand Pain after Texting

Do you wonder if you have a health condition known as "Texter's Thumb" or possibly Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from texting? Are your hands sore?

Everybody’s texting these days. We send texts to family, to friends, and to schedule hair appointments. We send texts for work and to confirm business appointments. Most people have gotten quick at typing on their phones. Texting seems to have overtaken email as the top way to receive and send information fast.


However, using your thumbs to text isn’t the same as typing on a keypad. When you use a keypad, you use both thumbs and fingers to hit the keys. But with texting, you typically only use your thumbs. Sometimes people try to text with just one thumb while they are holding babies, cooking, or working on a project with the opposite hand. This can cause over-use injuries of the hand that involve the thumb, wrist, and arm.


If you are starting to have discomfort, pain, or numbness from texting, it is important to understand the correct diagnosis. This will help you to determine what the problem is and the best way to get your wrist and hand to heal. Three main health problems associated with texting are: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, tendinosis, and Texter’s thumb (De Quervain Tenosynovitis). If your pain is severe, or has lasted for months, it is best to seek out a qualified health professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Now let’s go over these different disorders and what symptoms go with each one.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Night time’s the right time for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If you have pain, tingling, or numbness in your wrist, that’s keeping you up at night, you may have C.T.S. This condition typically affects only half of your dominant hand. When it affects the hand, it usually shows itself in the thumb, index finger, and middle finger. Sometimes you only feel it in your wrist. The feeling of tingling or discomfort can actually start to travel from your wrist up into your forearm. Some people find that they can “shake out” their hand to loosen the joints in their wrists to remove some of the pain. This is because the pain is caused by a trapped nerve inside the wrist. Women are usually more prone to getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome than men. If you are receiving hormone replacement therapy, you may be more at risk for this disorder.


If you don’t treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in time, you can begin to experience clumsiness in your hand. You may find yourself dropping your pen, spoon, paintbrush, or other tool that you are holding. You can begin to have pain when rotating a doorknob to open a door, or when using a screwdriver. Next, you can begin to have weakness in your hand. You may not be able to open a jar as easily as before. It may become painful to do routine tasks such as using a computer mouse, brushing your hair, shaving, or doing dishes. Removing a full container of milk or orange juice from the fridge can become painful. You can begin to experience painful “electric” sensations in your wrist and forearm.


Tendinosis


Tendons are thick bands of connective tissue that attach your muscles to your bones. You have hundreds of tendons throughout your body. When you over-use a tendon, without giving it time to rest, you can cause some damage, such as tiny tears that are visible under a microscope. The tendon can start to wear down and degenerate. Lasting problems can occur if the tendon isn’t give time heal properly.


When you get tendinosis in your wrist and forearm, it won’t cause numbness or tingling like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Instead, it will cause more of a burning pain. The pain can travel the length of the affected muscle. For example, it can travel from the fingers into the palm. Or it can travel from the wrist up the forearm toward the elbow. The pain will often occur during an activity that uses your hand and arm such as texting, using a computer mouse, or playing a musical instrument.


If you suspect that you may have tendinosis in your hand/arm, one thing you can do is find a picture online of the muscles of the hand and forearm. See if you can find a specific muscle that matches the location or path of your pain. Some examples of muscles that cross the wrist joint are flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus, extensor carpi radialis (longus and brevis), and flexor carpi ulnaris.


Like C.T.S, certain types of tendinosis in the wrist joint tend to affect women more often and people who are receiving hormone replacement therapy. People who rely on their hands at work (electricians, dental hygienists, carpenters, hair stylists, musicians etc.) are more prone to be affected by hand tendinosis.

De Quervain Tenosynovitis (De Quervain’s Syndrome)


This is pain at the base of the thumb, where the bottom of the thumb attaches to the wrist. This condition is also known as Texter’s Thumb, washer woman’s strain, mommy’s thumb, and gamer’s thumb. It is caused by over-using the thumb joint. There is an easy test to see if you have this condition, known as “Finkelstein's test.” You hold out your arm in front of you and make a fist as if you are holding a hammer in your hand. Next, you will make your wrist move as if you are hammering a nail. If this type of repetitive motion causes pain or discomfort at the base of the thumb, it is considered to be a positive test for De Quervain Tenosynovitis. Other types of activities that can irritate this joint are: pouring a pitcher of tea, using a watering can on your plants, chopping vegetables, playing pool, drying dishes, playing console games, and using the computer mouse (especially a gaming mouse with thumb buttons).


It gets the nickname “mommy’s thumb” because it can affect young mothers of newborns. In this situation the young mother has had hormonal changes due to her recent pregnancy. She has also been over-using her wrists by lifting her baby repeatedly up out of the crib. Then she is texting all her family and friends pictures of her baby. The combination of hormonal changes, and stresses on the thumb and wrist joint can trigger De Quervain Tenosynovitis.


De Quervain Tenosynovitis can cause pain and swelling along base of the thumb and the side of the wrist that is on the same side as the thumb. The pain can travel down toward the thumb or upward into the forearm.


I have one of these conditions. What should I do now?


The most important thing to do is to try to rest your wrist and hand. When possible, use hands-free technology such as a “voice-to-text” app so that you don’t need to use your thumbs quite as often. Make sure that you are using an ergonomic computer mouse that comfortably fits your hand. If you have small hands, purchase a computer mouse that is light and fits you properly. Use correct lifting techniques that allow you to incorporate your back and upper arm muscles rather than just relying on your wrist.


Use ice on the affected area to reduce swelling. Ice is an effective natural anti-inflammatory that can alleviate pain and swelling from wrist tendinosis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and De Quervain Tenosynovitis.


Chiropractic treatment can often help these three conditions. Chiropractors who are experienced in manipulating the bones of the hand and wrist can check to see if any of these bones are misaligned. They can gently reposition carpal and metacarpal bones in the hand and wrist. This often allows the body to heal faster.


When caught early, most people can fully recover from these conditions. If you suspect that you have one of these hand problems, contact your healthcare provider to start the path to recovery.


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