Texting Thumb Pain: Causes and Treatments

texting thumb pain

“Texting thumb” — once called “blackberry thumb” in the early 00’s — is the layman’s term now being used to describe thumb pain related to texting and constant smartphone use.

It may sound funny, but it’s no joke, considering billions of texts are sent every single day, and countless hours are spent browsing and engaging with the Web and social media on mobile devices.

Your thumb is not meant to engage in repetitive motions…

Texting too often can lead to thumb strain and worse — arthritis, tendonitis and enough pain and dysfunction that surgery has even been recommended in severe cases.

The toll of texting pain

Repetitive strain injuries (RSI), sometimes individually referred to as a repetitive stress injury, are becoming all too common, causing swelling and pain in thumbs, wrists and hands.

While doctors aren’t using “texting thumb” as a formal diagnosis, some consider the severity of the condition right alongside old standbys like tennis elbow and carpal tunnel.

Similar thumb injuries can occur from overusing video game controllers.

But thumbs are only the latest casualty to technology… anyone heard of “video game wrist” or “cell phone elbow”?

(RELATED: Your smartphone is wreaking havoc on your neck and spine)

These are two more legitimate, and growing, health problems of the 21st century.

Texting thumb pain can impact your whole body

Your thumb is not the only body part affected by excessive texting.

In fact, because texting involves a similar posture as typing, researchers are suggesting that many of the pains associated with too much computer keyboard use will be applicable to avid texters.

One study by Temple University researchers even revealed a link between texting and shoulder pain,[i] and past research has found elbow pain is common as well.

Your neck and wrists may also be at risk.

How to avoid and heal texting thumb pain

If you’re suffering from thumb strain from too much texting, it’s a sign that you need to take a break from this method of communication.

Because texting thumb is a repetitive motion injury, it’s essential that you stop the problematic motion, in this case the texting, in order for healing to occur.

As for prevention, if your thumb feels stiff or sore at the end of the day you’re probably texting too much.

If you have a newer iPhone or mobile device, try switching to your phone’s voice-text feature. You’ll be able to send text message with your voice, saving you agony in your thumbs.

In the meantime, you can try the following exercises to combat texting thumb:

  • Tap your thumb to the tip of each of your fingers on the same hand, repeating five taps on each finger
  • Pull your thumb gently downward (so your thumb and forefinger look like an “L”) with your opposite hand, holding the stretch for 10 seconds
  • Hold your hand out, palm facing down. Spread your fingers as far as you can, holding the stretch for 10 seconds
  • Massage the thumb web on your hand
  • Wrap a rubber band around the tips of your fingers and thumb, then open and close your hand 20 times
  • Wrap a rubber band around your thumbs (face your palms down) and stretch it 20 times

Read more:

Forward head posture: how to fix it

The side effects of cortisone shots

Is physical therapy right for you?

References:


i Temple University. “Pain In The Neck: Too Much Texting Could Lead To Overuse Injuries.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2009. 

Filed Under: General Health
Written By:
Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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10 thoughts on “Texting Thumb Pain: Causes and Treatments”

  1. Avatar Dwayne says:

    I switched from typing with my thumbs to typing with my pointer finger. I am a little slower but the pain is gone.

    1. Avatar Brian Garrod says:

      Kool😀

  2. Avatar Jenny Taylor says:

    I have no pain, but my right thumb is now huge and the doctor thinks it might be arthritis. It is a lot of “swelling” for very little dysfunction. It is not red or hot, and is not puffy like inflammatory swelling normally is. I do have a tick borne illness, but have assumed this is caused by using the TV remote to edit movies too much. Could this be the cause, and will the “swelling” go away if I rest it?

    1. Avatar Nidia Rivera says:

      Dont. Use the remote control anymore, please.

  3. Avatar F. Clinton (female) says:

    I have already had carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists. Now there’s pain n swelling at the base of the thumb right down to painful bone where my arthritis I wrecking havoc. So much pain!!!. No one has remedy for this bone pain. Thanks

    1. Avatar Steve says:

      F. Clinton, that is because there is no “one remedy”, it is a process, of both education and action… I see you have some of our books, please read and study them, as part of your remedy are in those books, the specific and exact steps for you, will be found as you go through the process…

      No one can do it for you and quitting is not an option, we are here to help but you must take the lead.

      All the Best

      Steve HBI-Staff

  4. Avatar Juletta Cowan says:

    what do you have for CARPEL TUNNEL SYNDRONE

    1. Avatar Steve HBI Staff says:

      Juletta,

      Here is a good start…

      1. Minimize the daily irritation
      2. Restore balance (strength vs ROM) to the muscles around and above the joint
      3. Massage – or manual moving of excess fluids is great
      4. Compression – Sleeves to keep the tissue clear of inflammation are great
      5. If you tend to go for natural healing products, Turmeric, Fish Oils, Systemic Enzymes

      The more the better and be consistent with techniques or products taken and then give it time!

      Thanks

      Steve

  5. Avatar Avelina says:

    I have trigger finger and carpal tunnel surgery since Jan 2019. It’s been more than eight months now . My fingers are very tight, swelling and painful especially in the morning. Do you have any advise on how the pain will go away? I will appreciate very much your help. Thank you

  6. Avatar steve says:

    Avelina

    How you start to see a pattern, your story may be different but the actions can be the same, within tolerance…

    Here is a good start…

    1. Minimize the daily irritation
    2. Restore balance (strength vs ROM) to the muscles around and above the joint
    3. Massage – or manual moving of excess fluids is great
    4. Compression – Sleeves to keep the tissue clear of inflammation are great
    5. If you tend to go for natural healing products, Turmeric, Fish Oils, Systemic Enzymes

    The more the better and be consistent with techniques or products taken and then give it time!

    Thanks

    Steve

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