Author: Shana L Johnson MD, AskDrShana
Technology-induced thumb pain is common. As people spend more time working on computers, texting, and swiping right, overuse injuries occur. Tech thumb describes multiple injuries that occur from repetitive motion injury. It may injure the muscles, tendons, or joints resulting in tendonitis, and joint pain.
The thumb plays a key role in hand functioning. It is very mobile while also providing a stabilizing force for grasping and picking up objects. The thumb has nine muscles controlling its movement. At the base, the CMC (carpometacarpal) joint can move in multiple planes. In the middle, the MCP (metacarpophalangeal) joint also moves in multiple planes. The most distal joint, IP (interphalangeal joint) moves in just one plane.
The thumb joints, the CMC and MCP, allow the thumb alot of motion. The motion is great for versatile function but can also predispose the area injury. The muscles and joints of the thumb struggle to keep up with the demands of frequent typing, texting and swiping. Ultimately, leading to strained muscles and irritated joints.
Thumb Pain Home Treatment
Tech thumb can be successfully managed with a few key tips. First and foremost, reducing the aggravating activity. The irritated muscles and tendons need a break from repetitive motion. This can be accomplished in a few ways. For example, reduce the irritating activity by 50% or more and use a thumb splint that reduces motion of the thumb. Relative immobilization allows the area to rest and heal. Also, reduce inflammation in the thumb area. ICE works great to reduce swelling and pain. A typical icing schedule is two times per day for 15 minutes.
Tech Thumb Brace
In regards to splinting, a great option is the Tech Thumb brace by Kondition. Its design is unique in its ability to provide relative rest to the thumb while allowing use of the hand. We wanted to develop a brace that was functional but still allowed use of the hand. After months of trying different brace styles and materials, we made a prototype that fits like a glove while offering relative thumb immobilization. We then worked with a manufacturer with an eye for quality. The brace is made of soft, comfortable neoprene fabric with a metal stay for thumb immobilization. The Tech Thumb brace accomplishes about 50% immobilization while maintaining hand function; it offers a great balance between support and function.
Tech thumb is a term that describes multiple injuries that may occur to the thumb from repetitive use. It can be successfully managed at home with a few key tips. Most importantly, rest the area so it can heal through activity modification and/or brace wear. The Tech Thumb brace is one option that provides support while allowing continued use of the hand.