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iPad Wrist: DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis in the 21st Century

by Athletico2 Comments

Another night browsing the web on my iPad – Another night of wrist pain. I look down to see my hand cocked in some nightmarish position that couldn’t have possibly existed before five or six years ago. Yikes! I am a Certified Hand Therapist. I know better.

DeQuervain's Tenosynovitis bad thumb PostureWhat is DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis

DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis is a common overuse injury and has been colloquially named “New Mommy Wrist,” due to many new mothers noticing a localized pain on the radial (thumb side) of wrist after the baby arrives. Although many attribute this pain as one of many discomforts our bodies experience over time, this is likely due to poor body mechanics when lifting an infant, as it is postpartum hormonal instability. Something as routine as a floppy head or a long reach into the crib can cause a mom to assume an awkward wrist bend. That awkward thumb stretched (wrist flexion/thumb abducted) position can simply be caused by lifting a baby.

DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis and Touch Screens

The same basic body mechanics can be applied to using touch screens. Follow these tips to avoid pain:

  1. Wrist should be in a neutral or slightly extended (back) position when using your thumb to scroll.
  2. Try to avoid repetitive and exaggerated “down-up” motions of the thumb to scroll through large amount of text.
  3. If you start having pain, icing can help bring down inflammation quickly.
  4. Try to switch to your non-dominant thumb from time-to-time to give your dominant hand a break.

Treatment For DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis

Treatment for DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis mirrors that of many inflammatory injuries:

  1. Ice
  2. Immobilization via orthosis
  3. Stretching the tendons that move the thumb across the wrist

DeQuervain's Tenosynovitis good thumb PostureBesides these corrections, a hand therapist can address body mechanics to try preventing injuries in the future. For a new mom, improved posture may include bringing the wrist into a neutral position when lifting a baby under the arm, and changing the manner in which she is providing the newborn’s head support to decrease excessive wrist and thumb motion.

A quick literature search did not bring up any “hits” when referring to tablet usage and DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis. But I know I’m not the only one out there. If the next time you’re scrolling on your tablet, and you have a noticeable wrist pain, check the position of your wrist. Now you know better.

That’s better.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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  1. Ahmet

    You are definetely not alone. I’m a physician and i’m surprised how anyone hasn’t showed up with this connection yet.
    I phone 6 does the job as well

  2. John

    My iPad weighs a little over a pound. Add a cover or worse a keyboard folio and your placing a lot of constant pressure on one wrist. Since many of us need one hand free to type and input. i don’t use my iPad very long anymore.

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