Gamer’s thumb is a very real hand injury.
Sure, the condition may sound silly — who would believe you could suffer an injury playing video games?
In truth, video game hand injuries are nothing new. For years, hardcore gamers have sought treatment for musculoskeletal disorders and repetitive stress injuries. This condition is one of the most often reported problems related to excessive video gaming, and a fairly common type of hand injury.
What Is Gamer’s Thumb?
Also known as De Quervain’s tendinosis, this condition is a repetitive stress injury.
Most video game controllers are designed to put the brunt of the activity on the thumbs. Pound away on a game controller for hours at a time, day after day, and the rapid, repetitive movements will take a toll on the tendons at the thumb side of the wrist.
De Quervain’s tendinosis occurs when these tendons become irritated or constricted. Symptoms of this hand injury may include pain and swelling at the base of the thumb, a “catching” or “sticking” feeling during thumb movement and difficulties with thumb and wrist mobility.
How Is Gamer’s Thumb Treated?
Initial treatment for this hand injury involves staying completely away from the controller. Scaling back on your game playing isn’t going to be enough to alleviate your symptoms.
Other conservative measures — including using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), splints and corticosteroid injections into the tendon sheath — can also be effective treatments for De Quervain’s tendinosis.
If symptoms are severe or don’t improve with conservative treatments, your hand doctor may recommend surgery. Surgery can relieve the pressure on the tendons, allowing them to glide freely without pain.
Can You Prevent Gamer’s Thumb?
With the right video gaming strategies, you may be able to avoid suffering a hand injury.
Experts suggest limiting daily game time to two hours or less. Regular breaks are also important. And when you put the controller down, work on thumb stretching exercises. If you start to feel pain at any time during your game sessions, stop playing immediately.
Using good posture and maintaining your core strength with daily exercise can also take much of the strain off the smaller upper-extremity muscles and help prevent hand injury.
Do you think you might have De Quervain’s tendinosis? To find out, you’ll need to consult with an experienced hand doctor, as other hand problems can share similar symptoms.
For an expert evaluation of your condition, visit the Center of Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Excellence. Dr. J. Douglas Burrows, a leading northern Utah hand doctor for over 20 years, has the knowledge, training and skills to diagnose and treat your hand injury. Contact our West Valley City office to schedule a gamer’s thumb consultation today.