“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”?
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