Spending night after night on a tablet or Smartphone has created a new phenomenon from an age old condition. Too often people are using their hands on these pads and phones to the point of wrist pain and discomfort, but this is not new to medicine or physical therapy.touch-screen-thumb-raritan-physical-therapy

What is going on, medically, is DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis. Most people know it by its more colloquial term, Mommy Thumb, except the thumb has moved to the wrist.

Tenosynovitis means “swollen tendon sheath.” Mommy Thumb is when the sheath over the tendon becomes inflamed and causes sharp, acute pain in the thumb and around the wrist. The term came around from mothers who constantly pick up children under the arm, often with the thumb pointed up. This leads to the swelling and discomfort.

What has changed? Nothing actually. The same way a mother bends over to pick up a child is the same way people are holding tablets and Smartphones. The pain can be excruciating at times, and unless the hands are rested, the pain will not subside easily. Here are a few excellent tips to minimize and help prevent DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis.

1. The wrist – The wrist should be neutral or slightly tilted back if you are going to scroll with a thumb.

2. The thumb – Avoid the temptation to scroll through large amounts of text with large sweeping motions.

3. Ice – As soon as you feel something is wrong or off, ice down the affected area. Ice will help relieve the swelling rapidly.

4. Swap hands – Use your non-dominant hand to scroll or swipe. It will seem awkward, but it may be necessary to give the wrist and thumb a break.

5. Rest – Put the tablet or phone down for a while. Try to focus attention on something besides those devices. Taking a brisk walk outside is not a bad idea.


Like most injuries of this nature, common treatments are the best. Start with ice packs for swelling, immobilize if necessary and use stretching techniques for the thumb and wrist. For more tips, contact the professionals at Raritan Physical Therapy. We would be glad to answer any of your questions and even take a look if necessary.