Not carpal tunnel, but my thumb hurts
May 8, 2012 2:06 PM   Subscribe

Really don't think this fits symptoms for carpal tunnel, but my thumb hurts. Or rather, more like the part of my hand between the tendons/muscles of the thumb and pointer finger hurts.

It has been like this for a few weeks and is starting to hurt when I hand write. I work out a lot but have no memory of an injury and don't spend more time typing at my laptop than most (and think the ergonomics at my office look ok). Not sure what it is--any ideas? I'm a female in my late 20s, for what it's worth.
posted by lovingkindness to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
One hand, or both? Is it muscle pain or joint?
posted by KathrynT at 2:50 PM on May 8, 2012

Are you talking about pain in the fleshy part of your hand below the "web" that stretches between the thumb and index finger? In my experience, tightness and pain in that area can be caused by repetitive stress from mousing (among other things), even if you don't have problems with your wrists. Gentle stretching (a la this "exercises for tendonitis" video), avoiding the motions that cause the pain, and gentle self-massage help for me. You might also consider switching to a pen tablet rather than a mouse, and/or switching your mousing/trackpadding to your non-dominant hand until it clears up -- this seems impossible at first, but it's a great skill to have, and most computer people can pick it up within two weeks.

This could also be an injury or a repetitive-stress problem caused by something you're doing in the weightroom -- and if it doesn't clear up fast I'd see a doctor -- but my bet is on the mouse.
posted by vorfeed at 3:22 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

This website helped me figure out I have De Quervain's tenosynovitis, helped by a brace I wear at night. Apparently it's most common in people who lift things like babies and boxes.

Of course, there's always going to a doctor.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:56 PM on May 8, 2012

Sounds like Trigger Thumb or Finger. A steroid shot can help.
posted by tamitang at 8:13 PM on May 8, 2012

I type, a lot, and I get flare ups of what I called "Mouse Hand".

You don't say -- and using a laptop it probably isn't an issue, but do you use mouse?
I'd eliminate that asap.
If not, look at how you use your hands on the laptop.

Do you game?
posted by Mezentian at 11:22 PM on May 8, 2012

Thanks, all! This was great as I needed some information to get started looking into this. I don't lift weights (I do spin, jog, swim, and do Pilates). I don't game. I do use a mouse for 8 hours at work (and it's my right hand--so it fits). My work setup is a keyboard + monitor + mouse, all separate. I also have a blackberry and iPhone, though I really feel I don't use them or my computer as obsessively as many people I know (but everyone's body is different, so maybe that doesn't matter).
posted by lovingkindness at 6:26 AM on May 9, 2012

My smartphone and iPad definitely make the fleshy part of my thumbs sore after a while, and my chiropractor confirms she's seeing this in more of her clients. Try cutting them out for a while to see the effect, or just use your left hand with them for a few days to see the effect on your right hand.

I don't spin, but when you do, is there weight on your hands? When my hands are really bad, handlebars are not so great. But again, I don't know how spinning compares to biking on this.

Everyone is so different on this. If anything my partner has worse habits on all computer and posture related fronts, but it hurts me much more than it hurts for him.

I've really benefitted from seeing a doctor who does Active Release Therapy.
posted by heatherann at 6:33 AM on May 9, 2012

Oh yes, the same thing happened to me and it took forever to heal! The previous respondents have it pegged: it's from your mouse. My employer ended up getting me this vertical mouse. It repositions your hand like you're going in for a handshake and I can't recommend it enough! It is wonnnnnderful!! Your hand will feel so much better using a mouse in this position.

For what it's worth, I also have a graphics tablet/pen, but I love having this sideways mouse because using a pen 100% of the time doesn't help nearly as much.
posted by Eicats at 6:35 AM on May 9, 2012

The only way to know for sure would be to see a hand doctor but I would guess that pain where you describe is coming from your basal joint (1st carpometacarpal joint). Females tend to be more flexible than males and some mild instability there coupled with repetitive use can lead to synovitis (inflammation). Therapy can be very helpful if workplace modifications aren't. If it doesn't get better soon, see a hand doc.
posted by karlos at 9:47 AM on May 9, 2012

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