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What To Do When You Get Gamer’s Thumb From Too Much Gaming

06 December 2022

3 minute read

What To Do When You Get Gamer's Thumb From Too Much Gaming

In the early 1980s, playing video games would require you to go to the arcade, but with the advancement of technology, video game screens got smaller and became wonderfully portable, which was great for gamers. 

Fast forward to the 21st century and you don’t even have to step out of bed to play video games. 

Mobile phones allow you to download games any time, anywhere with just the tap of a finger. 

There is no doubt that gaming can be a fun distraction or hobby, or even a competitive sport in the form of esports. 

However, there are health risks that can come from too much gaming. 

Try playing a video game on your mobile phone or using a controller for a few hours straight, and you will notice that you will start having sore thumbs. 

This repetitive stress injury to the thumb is called “gamer’s thumb” or de Quervain tenosynovitis of the thumb. 

It is an inflammation of the tendons located over the base of the thumb, running up to the wrist and forearm. 

Patients will typically experience:

  • Pain and swelling below the thumb
  • A grip that is painful or weak  
  • Tenderness around the thumb and wrist region  
  • Pain that radiates up to the forearm and thumb, and  
  • Wrist pain that worsens with every movement.  


Of course, there are other factors that can cause de Quervain tenosynovitis. 

These include carrying heavy bags or lifting a baby, playing sports like golf or racket sports, or even playing the piano. 

Basically, it can happen with repetitive wrist and hand movements. 

Just think about the amount of use the thumb goes through while you scroll or text, or play video games on the mobile phone. 

Simple prevention tips

As overuse of the thumbs is the main cause of gamer’s thumb, there are preventive measures you can take to ease the pain and prevent it from worsening. 

Most importantly, take frequent breaks from your mobile phone or playing video games. 

Also, shorten the time period of using your mobile phone or playing video games. 

Do some stretching exercises for your thumbs and wrists. 

In the event that the pain and swelling occurs so often that it gets in the way of your daily activities, then it is time to get it checked by a qualified doctor. 

Once the diagnosis is consistent with gamer’s thumb or de Quervain tenosynovitis, we will advise the patient to rest and reduce the amount of time they spend on their mobile phone and/or playing video games. 

Topical analgesics or creams can be applied, as well as an ice pack over the affected thumb and wrist. 

Oral painkillers can be prescribed. 

The thumb and wrist area can be splinted or braced to rest them. 

A qualified occupational therapist can also create a treatment plan involving exercises that will increase the mobility of your thumb and reduce the pain. 

If the swelling and pain are severe, a corticosteroid injection to the affected area will drastically reduce those symptoms. 

As a final resort, surgery can be done to relieve the pain. 

Such surgery involves cutting the sheath around the tendons to allow more room for it to move more freely. 

Like many other activities that have both benefits and harm, moderation is key. 

Education is also important in preventing injuries. 

Simple advice like taking breaks and stretching can make a huge difference. 

Limit your number of hours spent in front of the screen and engage in healthier activities like exercising or socialising in the real world, instead of the virtual world. 

It is important for us to integrate the real world into our lifestyle, which should include plenty of sleep, a healthy diet and exercise, rather than letting the game become your life. 

This article first appeared in The Star, 21 August 2022.

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06 December 2022

3 minute read

What To Do When You Get Gamer's Thumb From Too Much Gaming

Dr. Hazli Sufian Bin Sulaiman


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