Isn’t it so exciting how we can now send a quick note to someone via text message or keep up with friends and family through social media on our phones and tablets? Yet, with all that excitement of finally coming into the future of convenience, we must still pay a price; or do we? The price I am referring to is “Texting Thumbs” or texting thumbs syndrome or, more scientifically known as De Quervain’s tenosynovitis (also known as radial styloid tenosynovitis).
If none of these terms sound familiar, let me explain. Basically, this is when you start having pain, tenderness and/or swelling in the thumb area and wrist as a result of repetitive movement when texting on a smartphone and tablet or typing on a computer and laptop without using proper body mechanics. Here, you will learn 3 great tips on how to relieve this type of pain using methods you can do yourself.
What is Texting Thumb Syndrome (or Pain)?
You may ask: How do I know if I am actually experiencing texting thumb syndrome? Well, it would be pretty obvious. You may notice it more after writing that long text or when thumbing through and scrolling up and down on social media. You will have pain in and around the thumb area. Pain or tenderness may be felt from the meaty part that’s at the thumb base on the palm side of the hand, on the side of the thumb, around the thumb joint on the back of the hand, and even up the forearm just below the elbow. All this due to repetitive movement.
The primary area you will feel pain is on the lower, back side of the thumb (around the tendons located on the back of the hand). Over time, the other areas begin to become affected, especially up the forearm due to lack of care and attention. This pain is usually the result of muscle cramping, muscle fatigue (over time), swelling around the tendons, and inflammation of the tendons (from overuse). The pain can either be chronic or acute (which is not very cute).
Prepping for Healing
Before getting into the flow, it is essential that you take these key steps to optimize your relief.
As you are resolving the pain, slow down your breathing. With the assistance of the breath, create a softness (or relaxation) throughout the rest of your body. (see our yoga breathing post for more info)
If you feel more of the negative pain as you are doing any of these tips, stop and set up an appointment with your doctor to make sure it is not something more.
Let’s get into some really promising and useful tips you can do on your own. You can do any of these in the moment when the pain starts acting up at work, at home or just walking around. Now, even though I am guiding you in three different tips, it is up to you if you decide to use all three or choose which one works best or switch them up on any given day.
Ready? Here we go.
3 Tips for Relieving Thumb Texting Pain
We will go over a massage technique, Trigger Point technique and Integrated Positional Therapy. They each have awesomeness to their benefits. Massage uses great techniques that help to move stagnate energy out, increase circulation, and assist in the healing process by guiding oxygen and nutrition rich blood to the area with effleurage and petrissage techniques.
Trigger Point will focus on specific points of the most tender part of a muscle. This breaks up adhered fascia (which can produce pain on its own) and concentrates the healing properties blood circulation can bring to the compromised and painful area with firm, narrow pressure.
Positional Therapy will connect and communicate with the deeper muscles and encourage them to return to their neutral state and be more relaxed. Integrated Positional Therapy will also provide you with a wellness plan that will help you adjust your habits from agitating problems to productive and pain-free (you can learn more about how to adjust your habits with Lee Albert’s book ‘Live Pain Free‘).
Tip One: Massage Therapy
Massage Therapy Techniques
- In the area located on the back side of the hand, use effleurage from the base of the thumb (that starts at the wrist). When you gently press into that area you will feel the bone and a softer area that ends at a webbing like part between the thumb and the forefinger.
- With medium to firm pressure, slide your other thumbs along the ridge of the medial portion of the thumb from the wrist to the end of the thumb (lightening your stroke as you move more onto the thumb itself). Take your time with this motion. Use a slower stroke. Play around with either inhaling as your move forward or exhaling. With this one, you are only moving one way; outward.
- Move your stroke more to the center line of the base of the thumb. Don’t go past the first thumb joint (of the metacarpal). The same thing, move outward.
- Using the same stroking style, massage the proximal phalanx (the center line between the first and second joint).
- Then bring your strokes on the “meaty” part of the thumb base on the palm side.
- After your done, move the thumb in circles at least 8 times in one direction then in the other direction. Stretch the whole hand and finger wide.
Flow in One Direction
Massage upward, only to the first joint of the thumb.
Massage upward on the medial side of the whole thumb.
- Use your other thumb (or if that is too tender to use, bring your four fingers together) with light to medium pressure, starting on the back side of the wrist, do a circular motion massage. Move this massage to the thumb side of the wrist, then to the inside of the wrist. Move from the back side of the wrist to the inside part of the wrist for at least three rounds.
- With your whole hand (opposite hand), rub around the wrist (by twisting both the sore thumb’s arm and the massaging hand in opposite direction). Start at the wrist, then move up the forearm to the elbow. Do this movement for at least three rounds.
- When done, make circles with the hand from the wrist. Several in one direction, then the other.
- Establish your fist or forearm, of the other arm, with medium to firm pressure and move up the arm and light pressure to come back down toward the hand.
- Then squeeze the arm from the wrist up. When you squeeze, keep your four fingers and thumb together. Focus the squeeze with the palm on one side and the fingers on the other. This is the petrissage.
Techniques for Texting Thumb Pain
Massage from the base of the inside (medial) of the thumb
Massage from the bottom of the outside (later) of the thumb to the tip of the thumb.
Massage the palm side of the thumb moving upward.
Massage in circles both clockwise & counter clockwise. Do at least a set of 6 circles each.
Turn to the back of the wrist and do the same type of circles. A min. of 6 one way, then 6 in the other direction.
Full wrist massage by twisting the arm
Two: Trigger Point Therapy
- Thumb (of opposite hand)
- Elbow (perfect for if you are not able to use tools 1 & 3)
- Hand Held Massage Tool for Pressure Point (great if your other thumb is too tender to use)
- In the soft area between the thumb and the forefinger (where it is soft) press and hold down and in with as much pressure as you can. Hold until the sensation subsides and lightens. Move, slightly, toward the thumb and on the bone and bring stagnate pressure.
- When using a handheld tool, be careful with your pressure as to not bruise the area over the bone. At the lower base of the thumb (on the palm side), closer to the wrist and hold pressure.
Press from the wrist to the elbow. Following the inside edge of the bone (radius) When you get to the more meaty area of the forearm, just below the elbow, bring the pressure on the most tender part of the muscle. As you hold, turn your arm back and forth (palm up to palm down). Now focus on the center of the inside of the arm; from the wrist to the elbow.
Use Medium to Firm Stagnant Pressure (depending on sensitivity)
Use pressure point in the webbing between the thumb and the fore finger.
Bring the focus a little lower to where you can feel the bones of both the thumb and fore finger (where it feels like a letter "v"). Bring more of the pressure thumb side and hold.
Using your other thumb, bring pressure point to the (palm) side of the fore arm and hold any tender points.
Hold a pressure point at the top side (just below the elbow) of the fore arm. Awareness, this area tends to be very tender, but keep holding until it settles out.
Three: Integrated Positional Therapy
Integrated Positional Therapy helps to reset muscles and reduce pain.
Techniques to use
- Strain Counter-Strain (SCS)
- Muscle Energy Technique (MET)
Strain Counter-Strain for Texting Thumbs
- Gently squeeze the thumb and the pinky towards each other. Hold for at least 90 seconds as you breathe deep.
- To get into this next technique, bending at the elbow, hold your hand so that the palm faces you. With your other hand, bring it to the back of the hand you will work on so that the thumb is behind the pinky. Relax your wrist and gently twist the hand (pressing the pinky with the other thumb) and hold your arm against your body. Hold the thumb base with your opposite hands four fingers. It should not be a big stretch feeling or pain here. Hold and breathe deep for at least 90 seconds.
Muscle Energy Technique for Texting Thumbs
- With your other hand, gently press the sore thumb downward. Using 10 percent or less pressure, press your thumb into the opposite hand and vise versa. Do not overdo it. Your goal is to fatigue the surrounding muscles so that they can relax and let go. Hold this tension for 5 seconds as you inhale through the nose. Exhale let go and relax more. Do this 3 times, seeing how much more to can stretch the thumb away from the hand in a gentle manner. Change direction.
- Squeeze the thumb and pinky towards on another. Using light tension, work to open the hand against the tension of the other hand.
If your other hand is just as bad as the one you are working on, you can get a finger grip stretcher/strengthener.
Positional Therapy Finishing
Muscle Energy Technique: Gently stretch the thumb down & away (with the other hand). Then slightly resist the hand stretching the thumb (isometrically). Hold for 5 secs & release. Do 3 times.
After the Massage - After the Trigger Point - After the Positional Therapy do a nice, full stretch of the whole hand. And your done.
Let us know how these techniques worked for you.