From typing out work emails and texting our friends, to playing games or simply scrolling through social media, “screen time” takes up a large portion of our day to day.
According to Statista, as of 2021, approximately 3.8 billion people across the world own a smartphone. That’s almost half of the entire world’s current population!
But if you spend a lot of time holding, typing on or scrolling through your phone, you could potentially be at risk of developing Scroller Thumb. Here at OriGym, we’ve come up with some simple exercises to combat Scroller Thumb so that you can scroll through TikTok or double-tap your way through Instagram, pain free.
What is Scroller Thumb?
Scroller Thumb or Trigger Finger, known medically as Texting Tendonitis and Stenosing Tenosynovitis, are conditions which typically affect the thumb, the ring finger or the little finger.
This is where one or more of the hand's tendons begin to cramp, become inflamed, get stuck in a bent position or are difficult and painful to straighten.
So, how does it develop?
Each hand is made up of 27 bones and 35 muscles. There are over 100 tendons connecting those bones and muscles, including flexor tendons which allow you to bend your fingers and thumbs, and extensor tendons which allow you to straighten them.
Each movement of your fingers and thumbs use those muscles and so your tendons contract and extend accordingly. Repetitive movements can tire out your tendons, resulting in wear and tear, such as soreness and inflammation.
Symptoms of Scroller Thumb or Trigger Finger
Common signs and symptoms of developing Scroller Thumb include, but are not limited to:
- Pain or stiffness at the base of the affected thumb/finger
- A clicking sound when you move your thumb/finger
- Difficulty moving your thumbs or fingers when you wake up in the morning
- Numbness in your fingertips
If your symptoms are caused by excessive smartphone use, your dominant hand will likely experience the majority of pain, cramps, and stiffness. However you may also experience these symptoms from using tablets or e-readers too!
How to prevent Scroller Thumb and Trigger Finger
In some cases Scroller Thumb may get better on it’s own. In more extreme cases, it might be that medication or surgery is needed to prevent the fingers or thumb from permanently being stuck in a bent position.
It goes without saying that putting down your phone and taking regular breaks from devices will give your fingers, thumbs and wrists a well-needed rest in between usage. And as with all medical conditions, prevention is easier than a cure.
The good news is that there are some simple exercises which can prevent flare-ups of Scroller Thumb...
For this exercise you’re going to need a soft ball which fits comfortably in one hand. Take the ball and squeeze it, applying pressure from your fingers, and then release. If your thumb is more affected, apply more force using the thumb to strengthen the thumb muscle. You will see good results if you practice this exercise three to four times a day. If you practice this exercise three to four times a day this will help to relax stiffness.
The Extensor Exercise
You’ve probably practiced this move before without even thinking of it as an exercise!
Place your hand flat on a table with your palm facing downwards. Gently try and lift each finger and the thumb off the table, one at a time. Try and lift the tendon as far as you can without it feeling uncomfortable. Repeat this exercise three to four times a day.
The Finger Bend
In this exercise, you will need to start by bending your thumb inwards towards your palm. Then, try and touch the tip of each finger starting from first to last, holding each position for 10 seconds. Doing this three to four times a day will help to strengthen your tendon muscle.
The Resistance Exercise
Resistance exercises are known for building strength! For this one, you’re going to need a rubber band. Place the rubber band around your fingers and make sure that the thumb is included. Gently, push your fingers outwards as if you are trying to open up your palm. The rubber band should provide good resistance, if not, add a couple more! Do this exercise about five times a day to build strength in your fingers and thumbs.
By practising these simple exercises regularly, you should see results and alleviate any symptoms of Scroller Thumb or Trigger Finger. However, these are real conditions and, if left untreated, could potentially cause serious damage to your tendons. Try prevention exercises for your symptoms first, but speak to your doctor if the pain persists. Check out the OriGym blog for more strengthening exercise inspiration!