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Have you got Playstation, Texting or Mummy Thumb?


Now there is a condition of the modern age you might say! High speed gaming or touch typing can lead to repetitive strain type injury of the thumb’s tendons. This is a tenosynovitis of the sheaths or tunnel surrounding the tendon. Going by the official name of De Quarvains tenosynovitis it has in fact been around a long time. Alternative names include ‘Washerwoman’s sprain’, ‘Mummy thumb’ as well as the more recent ‘Blackberry thumb’ and ‘Nintendinitis’. It was in the capacity of ‘Mummy thumb’ that I encountered this inflammatory condition recently in The Physio Rooms. It was a first time mother who has been constantly lifting her baby through the abduction and extension of the thumb. In fact, during and after pregnancy, where hormonal changes and fluid retention are contributory factors, it is a common complaint. Activities such as bowling, golf, piano playing and sewing may also incur such strains.

A treatment approach involves resting the thumb and curtailing aggravating movements or activity. Physiotherapy includes stretching, soft tissue techniques and  tendon strengthening. Dry Needling or ultrasound can be used to compliment this. Ice, anti-inflammatory tablets and a temporary splint may also help.  Injections and very occasionally surgery are also options. In this case, for the new mother it was important to show her adaptive movements to lift her baby without overloading the tendons. It is really only by stopping the provoking action that proper and sustained healing can start.

 Whatever about the poor washerwoman scrubbing away, maybe we can persuade our Playstation kids and texting teenagers to rest their over active thumbs. As they say – hope springs eternal!
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