Cedars-Sinai Blog

Ask a Doc: What Is Texting Thumb?

phone, thumb, texting, pain, tech-related pain

Using a smartphone or tablet requires hand motions that put stress on several small muscles, tendons, and nerves in our fingers and wrists. These repetitions can lead to inflammation, pain, and even surgery.

To find out more about these technology-driven hand injuries, we spoke to Dr. Eugene Tsai, a hand and upper extremity surgeon at Cedars-Sinai.

Eugene Y. Tsai, MD

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Is texting thumb a real thing?

Texting thumb may be more associated with smaller phones. The larger smartphones and tablets usually cause pain in the pinky fingers and the wrists.

What is texting thumb?
What’s happening to our precious pinky fingers?

And what’s happening to our wrists?

Dr. Tsai: I see patients with pain around the base of the thumb and wrist, which is a condition called De Quervain’s tenosynovitis.

When you hold something like a tablet or large cellphone in a vertical position for an extended period of time, the two tendons that run between the wrist and thumb become inflamed.

Holding your phone while scrolling with the same hand can exacerbate it.

This has also been known as "mommy’s thumb" because it happens to new mothers who are constantly picking up their babies.

To look for De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, we’ll perform what’s called the Finkelstein test. You tuck your thumb into your fist, and that stresses that tendon. It’s an easy way to check for that specific tendinitis and pain.

Wearing a splint can help ease the pain of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis.

What are the treatments for these conditions?