Stiff Thumb? Your Phone Could be Causing “Trigger Thumb”
Trigger thumb, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition that affects the tendons in the thumb, causing them to become inflamed and irritated. This leads to difficulty in moving the thumb, and it may become stuck in a bent or flexed position. There are a variety of causes, but phone use – scrolling, swiping, and typing with your thumb – may be the culprit behind your discomfort.
In this article, top Detroit hand doctor Dr. Uzma Rehman discusses who is most likely to get trigger thumb, what causes it, how it is diagnosed, and the various treatment options available.
Who Gets Trigger Thumb
Trigger thumb is more common in women than men, and it is most commonly seen in people aged between 40 and 60 years old. It is also more common in people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Additionally, people who perform repetitive motions with their hands, such as musicians and manual laborers, may be more at risk for developing trigger thumb.
Causes of Trigger Thumb
Trigger thumb is caused by inflammation and irritation of the tendons that move the thumb. The tendons run through a tunnel-like structure in the wrist called the sheath, which is lined with synovial fluid to help the tendons move smoothly. If the tendons become inflamed, the sheath may also become inflamed, leading to the formation of nodules or bumps that catch on the tendon as it moves through the sheath. This causes the tendon to get stuck in the sheath, making it difficult to move the thumb.
The exact cause of trigger thumb is not always known, but it is believed to be related to repetitive motions, overuse of the thumb, and certain medical conditions that affect the tendons and joints.
Mobile Devices and Trigger Thumb
Excessive mobile phone usage can contribute to trigger thumb by causing repetitive stress on the tendons in the thumb. The constant typing, swiping, and scrolling motions that are required when using a mobile phone can lead to strain and inflammation in the tendons of the thumb, particularly the flexor tendon.
When the flexor tendon becomes inflamed, it can thicken and develop nodules or bumps, which can make it difficult for the tendon to slide smoothly through the sheath that surrounds it. This can cause the tendon to catch or lock in place, resulting in the characteristic clicking or snapping sensation of trigger thumb.
The repetitive and forceful thumb movements required for mobile phone use can also lead to microtrauma in the tendons, which can further exacerbate inflammation and irritation. Additionally, holding a phone for long periods of time can cause muscle fatigue and strain, which can contribute to the development of trigger thumb.
While mobile phone use is not the only cause of trigger thumb, it is one of the common activities that can contribute to the development of the condition, particularly in individuals who use their phones for extended periods each day. To minimize the risk of developing trigger thumb, it is important to take regular breaks when using a mobile phone and to practice good ergonomics when typing or swiping to reduce the strain on the tendons in the thumb.
Diagnosing Trigger Thumb
A hand doctor can diagnose trigger thumb by performing a physical examination of the thumb and hand. The hand doctor may ask the patient to bend and straighten the thumb to see if it becomes stuck in a bent or flexed position. The hand doctor may also check for tenderness and swelling around the base of the thumb.
In some cases, the hand doctor may order imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms, such as a fracture or arthritis.
Treating Trigger Thumb
If your thumb is causing pain or interfering with joint movement, you should see a hand doctor because there are several treatment options available.
In mild cases of trigger thumb, the hand doctor may recommend resting the affected hand and avoiding activities that aggravate the condition. She may also recommend wearing a splint or brace to immobilize the thumb and prevent it from moving.
Physical therapy may be recommended for people with more severe cases of trigger thumb. Our skilled and experienced hand therapists can help you perform exercises to strengthen the thumb and improve flexibility, as well as massage and other techniques to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also be prescribed by top Detroit area hand doctor Dr. Uzma Rehman to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Corticosteroid injections may also be used to reduce inflammation and break up any nodules or bumps that may be causing the tendon to get stuck.
In some severe cases, top Detroit area hand doctor Dr. Uzma Rehman may need to perform surgery to release the tendon and relieve the symptoms of trigger thumb. Surgery is usually done under local anesthesia, and most people can return to normal activities within a few days to a week.
Top Detroit Area Hand Doctor | Trigger Thumb
Trigger thumb (stenosing tenosynovitis) is a condition that causes the thumb to become inflamed and irritated, leading to pain and difficulty in moving the thumb. The thumb may even become stuck in a bent or flexed position.
If you live in the greater Detroit area, and you are experiencing pain or difficulty moving you thumb, schedule an appointment with top Detroit area hand doctor Dr. Uzma Rehman today. She can diagnose your condition and offer treatments that will relieve your pain and provide you with the best possible outcome.