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With the increasing popularity of gaming among all age groups, there is a growing concern about the potential injuries gamers may suffer. One such injury is called Gamer's Thumb.

What is Gamer's Thumb?

Gamer's Thumb is a type of repetitive stress injury caused by the overuse of the thumb while playing video games. It most commonly occurs in console gamers, as the constant use of the thumb stick can cause damage to the tendons of the thumb. It is also sometimes called "texter's thumb" due to the prevalence of the condition in people who frequently use their smartphones to send text messages.

The condition is often associated with or precedes De Quervain's Tenosynovitis also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, which is characterized by thickening and hardening of the tendon sheath attached to the base of the thumb.

Relevant Anatomy

The extensor pollicis brevis and abductor pollicis longus muscles are the two muscles that pull the thumb away from the hand and palm. These muscles are responsible for the movements that are required for gaming, such as thumb stick movements. The tendons of these muscles run through a protective sheath that is filled with synovial fluid, which effectively decreases friction and allows for smooth gliding of the tendon.

What causes Gamer's Thumb?

Gamer's Thumb is caused by repeated movements of the extensor pollicis brevis and abductor pollicis longus muscles of the thumb in a gaming context. This causes inflammation of the sheath surrounding these muscles. Other factors that may contribute to the development of Gamer's Thumb include poor hand positioning, inadequate stretching before and after gaming, and excessive gripping of the controller.

Signs and Symptoms of Gamer's Thumb

The symptoms of Gamer's Thumb may include pain and tenderness at the base of the thumb, swelling, and difficulty with thumb movements. There may also be a clicking or catching sensation when moving the thumb. These symptoms can make it difficult for gamers to play games and perform other everyday activities that require the use of the thumb.

How is Gamer's Thumb Diagnosed?

Gamer's Thumb is typically diagnosed through a physical examination of the thumb and hand. The doctor may ask you to perform various movements to evaluate the range of motion and level of pain. An X-ray or MRI may be ordered to rule out other possible causes of thumb pain.

What if Gamer’s Thumb is left Untreated?

If left untreated, Gamer's Thumb may progress to stenosing tenosynovitis, which is characterized by thickening and hardening of the tendon sheath. This can lead to a decrease in the range of motion and even permanent damage to the thumb. In some cases, surgery may be required to correct the condition.

Treatment of Gamer’s Thumb

The treatment of Gamer's Thumb depends on the severity of the injury. Mild cases of Gamer's Thumb may be treated with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medication. Physical therapy may also be recommended to improve strength and flexibility in the thumb. More severe cases may require immobilization of the thumb with a splint or cast. In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be used to reduce inflammation.

Preventing Gamer's Thumb

Preventing Gamer's Thumb requires taking regular breaks during gaming sessions to stretch and rest the thumb. It is also important to use proper hand positions while gaming and to grip the controller gently. Strengthening exercises for the thumb and wrist may also help prevent the development of Gamer's Thumb.