Does Gamer’s Thumb Require Surgery? Treating De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
Is Your Video Game Controller Helping Or Hurting?
Since Atari created the first game controller in the 1970s, gamers have clocked countless hours on games. However, gaming controllers, including the controllers available today, are not necessarily thumb-friendly. Over the years, doctors have seen a rise in de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. So much so that the condition has earned the name gamer’s thumb.
What is gamer's thumb?
De Quervain's tenosynovitis, or gamer's thumb, is inflammation of the tendons in the thumb. This affects the 2 tendons on the outer part of the wrist and thumb. These 2 tendons pass through a sheath during extension and flexion of the thumb. With gamer's thumb, there is inflammation of the sheath. As a result, persons with the condition feel pain and a loss of thumb motion. There will also be a catching or popping sensation when moving the thumb. Severe cases also experience swelling and a loss of grip strength.
Who gets de Quervain's tenosynovitis?
As the name suggests, gamers are especially prone to De Quervain's Tenosynovitis. Most controllers need both thumbs to press the right buttons. However, these controllers make the thumb perform repetitive stress movements in unnatural directions. And with the advent of streaming platforms and e-sports, some players now earn millions of dollars gaming. That means countless hours hurting those thumbs. De Quervain's is not limited to gamers. The condition is also called texter's thumb, so persons spending hours on social media should be careful. Other risk factors include pregnancy, age, and some sports.
Pause that game, save those thumbs
While playing video games for hours may be fun, the result could be severely damaged thumbs. Rest is the best way to relieve the pain and reverse the effects of the condition. Anyone with thumb pain and discomfort should prioritize rest. During the rest period, a thumb splint for 2-3 weeks can restrict the use of the tendon.
Physical therapy may help
The overuse of the thumb is not an exercise. However, by strengthening the tendons, persons with the condition can get long-term relief. Exercise usually involves placing the hand on a flat surface and moving the thumb in natural directions to improve flexibility. Specific activities using an elastic band around the fingers and thumb can also help.
Focus on treatment
Since the condition is linked to inflammation, there are a few steps that can reduce the swelling. Compression treatment, ice, and medication can combine to bring relief. Steroid injections may also help. However, a qualified doctor must administer the medication. Combining one or more of these treatments can be very useful.
Does de Quervain's tenosynovitis require surgery?
Doctors and patients can fix most cases without surgery. By following the steps above, people with the condition report outstanding outcomes. However, this only works when the condition is treated early. Advanced cases may cause severe pain and a loss of grip strength. At this point, a doctor may consider surgery. With surgery, the doctor will make small incisions along the wrist area. The surgeon can then free up some space for the tendon to move more freely. From there, the patient should see improvement in pain after several weeks of recovery.
Gamer's thumb does not mean game over
De Quervain's tenosynovitis can be uncomfortable, especially for gamers and others who depend on those particular digits. However, there are a few helpful forms of treatment with excellent outcomes. Follow the doctor's instructions closely. Focus on rest, exercise, and medication. If the pain persists, have a conversation about possible surgery options.
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