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Top Five Tips for Dealing With Gamer's Thumb

Top Five Tips for Dealing With Gamer's Thumb

De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition that affects the tendons on the thumb and the wrist. Previously known as washerwoman's sprain or mother's wrist, the name has now been updated to be more fitting to the recent generations. I present to you: gamer's thumb.

Gamer's thumb is thought to happen because of repetitive motions of the wrist (like screwing things, for example), trauma to the tendons, movements such as gripping or pinching, and - get this - when the thumb is held in certain postures such as abduction or extension... aka how you hold it when using a controller.

It's no surprise then that De Quervain's is common among gamers and, because GameGrin is full of them and I am now one of the unlucky De Quervainers (yes, we have our own club name), I thought I might write a piece detailing some tips I have for those unfortunate enough to suffer from it.

Without further ado, these are my top five tips on dealing with the infamous gamer's thumb.

(I filled in pictures of my favourite games per point to have some breaks between text!)

1. If you want to keep your gaming privileges, you better exercise

No, not that kind of exercise! The stretching kind.

Always listen to your doctor, even on annoying things such as “limit your play sessions” (which I now have to do)! De Quervain's is very responsive to treatment such as rest and exercises. I haven't gotten to the point of agonising pain nor does it move up to my elbow yet (I don't plan on getting there either), but believe me when I say this: It didn't look pretty when I went to the physiotherapy appointments and watched other people with the condition in advanced stages. It was scary.

The pain in my hands has been increasing at a very slow rate, but ever since I started listening to the doctors it has slowed down drastically. A few minutes a day of taking care of your hands seems very reasonable when you start realising just how much not gaming (or typing, or screwing things, or holding plates, or... the list goes on) sucks.

2. Get a splint

A doctor splint, not the sword kind!

Ask your doctor first, of course, especially so they can guide you as to which one and for how long, but the splint has helped me quite a bit. Maybe not the intended way because I don't need to (and can't) wear it all day, but when I'm going to do an activity I know might cause me to move my thumb or wrist the wrong way, it's a perfect way to help me remember not to.

Bonus tip: make sure you have the right size. This isn't a one-size-fits-all sort of deal.

3. Choose your gear carefully

Pick the right gear like Zagreus might to escape from the underworld.

I have a gaming mouse with 16 buttons — 12 of them being on the thumb side — and before I got De Quervain's I wasn't aware that pinching and repetitive, strain-y movements were bad, so I overused those 12 buttons a lot. Opening menus, casting abilities, switching through the consumables in Sekiro whilst panicking... you name it. Do you see what I am getting at? Let go of the controller.

Controllers, overusing buttons on the thumb side, having bad typing hygiene, refusing to upgrade to an ergonomic setup... everything. Let it go and get the proper things for your hand health because it will make a difference.

4. Invest in a heating pad

Heating pad hotter than Hades!

I'll reiterate — ask your doctor first before you do anything ever relating to health. Seriously, even taking vitamins.

Health anxiety aside, a heating pad has helped me a ton. I use it two to three times a day for short periods. I need to proofread for my job? Heating pad. I need to wait for my wife to finish up before we go eat? Heating pad. I need a few minutes to settle down and get sleepy? You guessed it — heating pad. Between it and the ice pack, I keep the swelling and pain at bay, and once I become economically stable again, I will get my own and stop using my grandma's 15-year-old one. I wish this was a joke.

5. Go to a doctor if you have a suspicion that you may be developing it

Run to the doctor as if you were GingerBrave running from the Witch!

Don't wait. Seriously. This condition takes time to develop so it isn't like tomorrow you will wake up without being able to move from pain, but people wait way too long sometimes. I understand healthcare isn't always available and doctors are expensive, but if I have learned something in my few months with this condition it's that I am so grateful I went to them early on. Excruciating pain, mobility loss... having to depend on everyone to do simple chores for you. No. Like my wife and I always say: never, ever put your hands and eyes at risk. Don't mess with them.

And that is all I have for now! The other tips are a bit more specific to me and my journey with it (like learning how to type with more than three fingers) but, if I come across more during my time being a De Quervainer, I shall make a part two. For now, take care and seriously, take a break and stretch those thumbs!

Tips, Tricks & Guides
Violet Plata

Violet Plata

Staff Writer

Liable to jump at her own shadow.

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Wedgeh - 01:15pm, 14th February 2022

Wise words right here!

Platinum - 10:21am, 15th February 2022

"Gamer's Thumb"

*Cough* Wanking *Cough*