Can texting cause ‘trigger thumb’?
Smartphone use and gaming continue to play a prevalent role in the lives of Americans, especially younger generations. But could this behavior put youth and young adults at risk for a condition normally seen in people 40–60 years of age?
Trigger finger, also sometimes called trigger thumb, is a condition where the tendon swells as a result of inflammation, which can occur from overuse. This limits finger movement and causes your finger to lock or catch before straightening out, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
“The tendon connects your muscle to the bones of your finger and allows you to bend it,” says Dr. Kevin Chen, an orthopedic surgeon on staff at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “The swelling is similar to the swelling you have after you sprain an ankle or other part of your body.”
The condition usually occurs in one part of the tendon and forms a nodule that moves as the thumb moves up and down.
“The nodule is close to a short tunnel called a pulley,” says Dr. Chen. “As the nodule tries to glide through the pulley, it can cause friction and catch, which causes clicking as the thumb is flexed and extended. As it catches, it can cause further swelling, and eventually, the nodule can get stuck on one side of the tunnel and be increasingly difficult for it get through the tunnel.”
“A good analogy would be a fishing line going through the holes on a fishing pole,” Dr. Chen says. “The fishing line is the tendon. The holes on the fishing pole represent the tunnel or pulley. If you tie a huge knot in the fishing line, it can catch on the hole on the fishing pole and be hard to pull through.”
While the cause of trigger finger is sometimes unclear, it is more likely to affect women, people between 40 and 60 years old and those who suffer from diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, according to the AAOS.
“Repetitive-motion activities such as texting and gaming could potentially cause or worsen trigger finger,” says Dr. Chen. “Sometimes overuse, lifting something heavy or trauma can cause trigger finger, as well.”
Symptoms of trigger finger can include:
- A tender lump in your palm
- A catching or popping sensation in finger or thumb joints
- Pain when bending or straightening the finger
- Pain when pressing at the pass of the finger affected on the palmar side
Both nonsurgical and surgical options are available to treat trigger finger and decrease the swelling of the tendon or open the tunnel. Consult a physician for more information.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.